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WORLDS OFl SCIENCE FICTION 



JULY • 1952 
35 tents 




LET MY PEOPLE GO 

By Walter Miller, Jr. 

Also Charfes De Vet 
August Derleth 
Gordon Dewey 
Marl Wolf 





SCIENCE FICTION 



JULY 1952 



All Stories New and Complete 



Publisher Editor 

JAMES L. QUINN PAUL W. FAIRMAN 



NOVEL 

LET MY PEOPLE GO by Walter Miller, Jr. 4 

NOVELETTE 

"AND THAT'S HOW IT WAS, OFFICER" by Ralph Sholto 101 

SHORT STORIES 

THE ONE AND THE MANY by Milton Lesser 59 

HOIMAN AND THE SOLAR CIRCUIT by Gordon Dewey 64 

ROBOTS OF THE WORLD! ARISE! by Mari Wolf 74 

YITAL INGREDIENT by Charles V. De Vet 93 

THE TERRIBLE ANSWER by Arthur G. Hill 125 

MclLVAINE'S STAR by August Derleth 138 

THE SMILER by Albert Hernhunter 152 

FEATURES 

A CHAT WITH THE EDITOR 2 

GUEST EDITORIAL 90 

PERSONALITIES IN SCIENCE FICTION 134 

SCIENCE BRIEFS 148 

THE POSTMAN COMETH 155 

Cover by HENRY JONES 

IF is published bi-monthly by, Quinn Publishing Company, Inc., 8 Lord St., 
Buffalo, N. Y. Volume 1, No. 3. Copyright 1952 by Quinn Publishing Company, 
Inc., Kingston, N. Y. Application for Entry as. Second Class matter at Post 
Office, Buffalo, New York, pending. Subscription $3.50 for 12 issues in U.S. and 
Possessions; Canada $4 for 12 issues; elsewhere $4-. 50. Allow four weeks for 
change of address. All stories appearing in this magazine are fiction. Any 
similirity to actual persons is coincidental. 35c a copy. Printed in U.S.A. 1 

NEXT ISSUE ON SALE JULY 9TH AT YOUR LOCAL NEWSSTAND 



Marion Fried 
R.F.D. #1 
Monmouth Junction 
New Jersey. 

Dear Marion: * 

In the letter you wrote congratu- 
lating us on the first issue of IF, 
you asked a question which — 
strangely enough- — was not found 
in any other of the hundreds we re- 
ceived. 

I gathered from your letter that 
you are sixteen years old— that you 
like science fiction but are having a 
tough time because your brothef 
doesn't think much of it and most 
of your classmates are partial to the 
"true confession" type of magazine. 

Possibly it will comfort you to 
know that I am pretty much in the 
same boat. My two small daughters 
are partial to Hopalong Cassidy, 
and their mother will read a science 
fiction story if you hold a pistol to 
her head. 

But to your question : In the 
straightforward manner of the typi- 
cal sixteen-year-old, you ask : "Can 
you give me a good -definition of 
science fiction in one sentence?" 



MARION — -you've got me, I 
can't. As a matter of cold fact, 
1 don't know what a science fiction 
story is. This, no doubt, must be 



considered an admission of guilt, 
coming as it does from the editor of 
a science fiction magazine. But I, 
too, can find comfort in the convic- 
tion that I am not alone. I don't 
think any of the other stf editors 
can define science fiction either. 

Of course I could give you any 
number of one-sentence definitions. 
I could say that a science fiction 
story is one in which the characters 
are occupied with scientific gim- 
micks. That wouldn't be a true defi- 
nition, however, because — while it 
may define one type of story — it 
does not define the field. 



YOU see the trouble is — science 
fiction is not a basic fiction pat- 
tern. Strictly speaking, there are few 
of these basic patterns, and they 
were discovered and set down long 
before science fiction was developed. 
The love story, for instance, is basic, 
mainly because it deals with a basic 
human emotion and is therefore 
fixed in its disciplinary structure. 
The detective story, which is hardly 
differentiated from the mystery pat- 
tern, is also basic, because we are 
dealing there, with a basic human 
characteristic — curiosity; the love 
of solving a puzzle. 

But the western story — as an in- 
stance — is not really basic. It is 
merely a background against which 



A CHAT WITH THE EDITOR 



love, mystery, humor, or some other 
basic pattern, is laid. The same is 
true with adventure stories, the 
term usually indicative of an exotic 
or unusual background against 
which a love story, a mystery story, 
or a problem story, is laid. 

As a matter of fact, even the 
basics can be mixed up. All detec- 
tive stories — or ninety percent of 
them — carry a love interest. And all 
love stories carry a mystery thread, 
even if it's only the reader's curios- 
ity as to what's going to happen 
next. 

So about all that can be really 
defined, is a story. They've discov- 
ered that in order to achieve the 
desired effect, a story must contain 
certain things. There should be 
both sympathetic and unsympathe- 
tic characters. The sympathetic 
character should be faced with a 
problem. He or she should solve 
that problem through individual ef- 
fort and in a manner which satisfies 
and entertains the reader. 



THOSE are the fundamentals of 
a story. Of course there are a 
world of variations, but they've dis- 
covered that most salable fiction 
must shake down, in essence, to 
those fundamentals. And those 



basics are found in every good story, 
be it in whatever category you will. 

Personally, I'd say a science fic- 
tion story is a fantasy in which the 
development is based on tangible 
gimmicks with at least a pseudo- 
scientific basis under them. I really 
feel, however, that the term denotes 
a background rather than a basic; 
just as the term western fiction is 
obviously a background. 

And I think the impossibility of 
really defining science fiction with 
any degree of accuracy, is the rea- 
son for the continuous hassle that 
goes on among the readers. The 
readership has broken up into 
groups, each of which has its own 
definition of science fiction. Prob- 
ably nothing more than personal 
taste is behind the definitions, but 
that makes each group no less mili- 
tant in defense of the story-type it 
favors. 

And there is no reason why each 
should not defend his own. The day 
these arguments cease is the day we 
can be sure science fiction interest 
is on the wane. 

So, let's just say science fiction is 
something that can't be defined but 
when you see it, you know it's there. 



Sincerely, 



pwf. 




^%£&?££$0£% 



&//£$* The gun spat deadly flame. 



How can we possibly amount to much when 
our fathers were sold at auction a scant five 
thousand years ago? 



Let 

My People 
Go 



By Walter Miller, Jr. 



THE SITUATION is ridicu- 
lous!" growled Wolek Parn, 
glaring fixedly at the scope which 
displayed the planet's surface as a 
mottled green pattern of pale lumi- 
nescence. "Look at them. Just 
look!" 

The others said nothing. Taut 
faces, with eyes locked to the 
screen. The planet lay seven thou- 
sand miles from their landing site 
on its moon, but the magnification 
pulled the surface toward them so 
that they watched it as if from an 



altitude of thirty miles. There were 
continents, oceans, islands, penin- 
sulas. The land appeared splotched 
and spotted, as if by variations in 
flora between highland and low- 
land. All this had been expected, 
predicted by Merrigull's calcula- 
tions. A planet for colonization, 
and they had reached it after thir- 
teen years of journeying across the 
blackness of interstellum. Now they 
were here, and the planet indeed 
was inhabitable. 

Furthermore, it was already in- 



WALTER MILLER, JR. 



habited. 

"There's another one!" Wolek 
Parn breathed as a checkerboard 
pattern of tiny squares drifted into 
view near the planet's misty limb. 
"Six, maybe seven miles square. 
That's no native village!" 

He turned to peer at their faces 
by the glow-light from the scope. 
Morgun Sahl, biologist — a tall 
gaunt man with a saturnine face, 
he showed no emotion except for a 
flicker at the corner of his mouth 
that might have been indicative of 
bitterness or of grim amusement. A 
wiry shock of black hair dangled 
over his forehead. He was a Lin- 
colnesque Machiavelli with a sour 
drawl. 

Beside him stood Faron Qun, 
chemist, mineralogist - — a shorter 
man with straw hair and a quiet 
scholarly face, small - featured, 
slightly pudgy, usually smiling. The 
smile was absent now. He looked 
like a small boy at a funeral, and 
the glow of the screen made his face 
seem abnormally pale. He held the 
launch pilot's arm, squeezed it spas- 
modically. 

It was a soft arm, milk-white 
and scattered with tiny freckles, and 
it belonged to Alaia Dazille — a tall 
girl, not beautiful, but cool and 
pleasant, with red-brown hair, a 
narrow "tival face, and hazel eyes 
that could shine with friendly 
amusement and suddenly switch to 
the cold glitter of sarcasm. Wolek 
Parn had met women that re- 
minded him of gardenias and fine 
wine. Alaia Dazille, however, made 
him think of geraniums and butter- 
milk. She responded to his stare 
with a questioning nicker of her 



eyebrows. She was trying hard not 
to be frightened. 

"Well, Alaia?" 

She shook her head. "Don't ask 
me anything Skipper." 

He glanced at the chemist. "Fa- 
ron?" 

Qun seemed to shudder. "No 
opinion. Ask our biologist." 

"All right, Sahl," Parn growled. 
"We spent thirteen years getting 
here. Shall we spend another thir- 
teen going back home?" 

Morgun Sahl watched the slow 
drift of the checkerboard patterns 
on the scope. "I'm sure you mean ' 
that," he grunted sourly. 

"Maybe I do. Why shouldn't I?" 

The big man shrugged. "How old 
would you be, Pawn, when we got 
back? Sixty?" 

"Fifty-nine." 

"You started in the prime of life. 
You get back approaching retire- 
ment age. Twenty-six years gone 
for nothing. And you don't get paid 
a nickel for your trouble." He 
smiled humorlessly and tapped the 
scope with his finger. "There's your 
pay, Skipper. Epsilon Eridani Two. 
You won't turn it down." 

Parn scowled. "You think we can 
land right in the middle of some- 
body else's civilization and start a 
colony?" 



SAHL HESITATED, chewed 
the corner of his mouth thought- 
fully for a moment. He gestured at 
the screen again. "They, whoever 
they are, undoubtedly know we're 
here. The ship's big enough, and 
the moon is close enough, so that 
they can see us with a small tele- 



LET MY PEOPLE GO 



scope. Creatures that build cities 
that size probably are advanced 
enough to spot us and recognize 
us for what we are: alien invaders. 
Undoubtedly they're already react- 
ing to what they see." 

"And what kind of a reaction?" 

The biologist shook his head. 
"Impossible to guess. Anger— hys- 
teria — terror. Or maybe cold analy- 
sis and planning. I suggest we just 
wait and see." 

"And wind up with a fleet of 
guided missiles coming up to greet 
us?" 

"Maybe." 

"What kind of creatures do you 
think we'd find on such a planet?" 

The biologist was slow to answer. 
"Well, life always takes about the 
same pattern everywhere we've 
found it. It's never been too radi- 
cally different. The basic proto- 
plasm is always the same, or we 
can't call it 'life.' This planet is very 
earthlike. The sun is cooler than 
our Sol, but there's enough ultra- 
violet for vegetation. I believe the 
life-forms will be similar to what 
Earth has developed at various pe- 
riods in her history." 

"Which might be anything from 
a duck-billed platypus to a dino- 
saur," Parn fumed. "And the cities 
might be insect hives." 

With an exclamation of disgust, 
Wolek Parn snapped a switch, 
flooding the compartment with 
light. He turned off the scope and 
paced to his desk where he dropped 
wearily into his seat and faced 
them, arms draped across his legs, 
his shoulders slumped dejectedly. 

"We can send a launch down, of 
course," he said gloomily. "But it'll 



be a one-way trip because of fuel 
considerations. If it goes down, it 
stays. And so it has to take a load 
of colonists with it, or somebody 
gets left behind in the long run. 
How can I send twenty-four guinea 
pigs down into the hands of — of 
what?" 

Sahl shrugged. "You can ask for 
volunteers." 

Parn leaned forward, clasped his 
head in his hands, and shook it 
slowly. "Eventually, I guess I'll 
have to. Right now, I'm faced with 
telling them. About' the cities. 
They've been impatient as hell to 
know what's going on. Why we 
landed here. A few more hours and 
they'll start getting mad." 



FARON QUN spoke up for the 
first time. "Why don't you put 
it to them as a vote, Skipper? Make 
them responsible for deciding." 

"Suppose they decide to load 
everybody in the launches and go 
down right now?" 

"Well — suppose they do? Can 
you say definitely that it's the wrong 
decision?" 

"No, I guess not." 

"I can," Sahl growled. "But you 
needn't give them that choice. Ask 
for volunteers for a first launch, 
then let the volunteers decide 
whether they want to jump right in, 
or wait and see if there's any reac- 
tion to our presence here on the 
planet's moon." 

Parn nodded thoughtfully and 
sighed. "I guess it's the only thing 
to do." 

There was a brief silence, sud- 
denly interrupted by a knock at the 



8 



WALTER MILLER, JR. 



entrance, "Colonists," Parn mut- 
tered, "wanting to know what's 
up." He raised his voice. "Okay! 
Come in!" 

The hatch opened, and a young 
officer leaned inside without enter- 
ing. "It's Rulian, Sir. He wants to 
see you." 

"Ru — I thought I sent him out 
to scout the surface." 

"He's back, Sir." 

"All right, send him in." , 

The officer nodded and vanished. 
A pudgy, florid man stepped hur- 
riedly inside. He was panting 
slightly, appeared to , be nervous. 
He still wore a pressure suit, but the 
helmet had been removed. He 
brushed at his disheveled hair and 
gazed at Parn. 

"Well, what is it? Surely you 
didn't have time to finish — " 

Rulian shook his head quickly. 
"No, Sir. We got halfway to the 
hills. And then we came back. We 
thought you ought to know right 
away." 

"Know what?" 

The scout held something out on 
the palm of his hand — a torn bit of 
metal. Parn frowned questioningly. 

"Looks like — maybe a sheared- 
off rivet. So?" 

"Just brought it back so you 
wouldn't think I was off my rocker, 
Skipper." 

"What are you talking about?" 

"Out there— on " the surface. 
There's the entrance to a tunnel, 
with an air-lock. A meteorite clob- 
bered it— long time ago, maybe." 
He tossed the bit of metal on Parn's 
desk. "That's from the wreckage of 
the lock." 

A hush fell over them. Parn 



reached for the bit of metal, rolled 
it around in his palm with a blunt 
finger. Morgun Sahl was the first 
to break the silence. 

"Well, Skipper— I guess that de- 
termines what we do next." 

"Eh? Oh, yes. Sahl, I guess the 
job is yours, since we don't have an 
archeologist aboard. Pick whoever 
you need." 

Sahl glanced at Faron Qun and 
Alaia. "You two want to go?" 

The girl glanced at Qun. The 
chemist paused, then nodded. 
"We'll get suits and meet you out- 
side." 



Chapter II 



THE LANDSCAPE lay barren 
and sunswept under a lurid sky. 
The moon possessed a thin atmos- 
phere of xenon and other heavy 
gasses that tempered the harshness 
of the sun-glare and painted the 
blackness of space with a translu- 
cent film of sky. Morgun Sahl 
glanced at the wrist-indicators of 
his suit. The pressure was around 
two pounds, and temperature a 
modest 110° Fahrenheit. He stood 
outside the lock with Rulian, wait- 
ing for Qun and Alaia. The scout, 
was pointing to a low outcropping 
of rock perhaps four hundred yards 
from the ship. 

"The tunnel is just beyond that," 
came the scout's voice in his head- 
sets. "Believe me, Sahl, I about 
dropped over when I saw it. Who 
do you suppose dug it?" 

The biologist shrugged, and 
gazed moodily at the huge but 



LET MY PEOPLE GO 



faintly visible crescent that hung in 
the western sky. What manner of 
beings were watching them and 
waiting for a move? 

Man had never before touched a 
planet where nourishing life was 
possible. There was Mars, of course, 
with its stunted flora and primitive 
fauna. And the single planet of Al- 
pha Centauri, with its steaming 
oceans full of marine life, but with 
a climate too hot for land-life ex- 
cept in fertile patches in the polar 
regions. 

Here, however, under the orange 
glare of an Eridanian sun, lay a 
world nearly Earthlike. So Earth- 
like that the eventual development 
of an intelligent species was almost 
inevitable, according to SahPs way 
of thinking. Merrigull had thought 
so, too, but he had allowed for a 
probable deviation from Earthlike 
conditions, and had guessed that 
the peculiarly human survival re- 
sponse called "intelligence" would 
not happen here. 

Obviously, Merrigull had guessed 
wrong. And one hundred and twen- 
ty colonists were left holding the 
bag, visitors without reservations, 
discovering too late that the inn 
was already full. Certainly the vis- 
itors would not be welcome. The 
only question in Sahl's mind per- 
tained to the amount of resistance 
the Eridanian life-forms would of- 
fer to their coming. It might be 
anything from grudging tolerance 
to fanatical opposition. In case of 
the latter, there was nothing to do 
but retreat, go back to Earth, if 
they could escape — and try to laugh 
off the twenty-six lost years of life. 

Certainly there could be no forc- 



ing an entry into the Eridanian 
world against the will of the Erid- 
anian civilization. The colony was 
equipped with no spectacular weap- 
ons, nor any way to maintain a 
technological culture for more than 
a generation. They had come hop- 
ing to begin with a society of small 
farms in some area where metals 
were plentiful, and to let their de- 
scendants gradually assemble the 
tools of a better civilization. 



THE AIR-LOCK opened behind 
him, and he turned to watch 
Alaia and Faron Qun climb down 
to join them. Across the cracked 
dry ground they strode, puffs of 
dust rising about their boots and 
drifting away on the thin breeze. 
The scout led them to the outcrop- 
ping of rock, and they climbed it 
to stare at the plain beyond. The 
tunnel's mouth, was only a small 
pock-mark of blackness on the 
ground, but there was a glitter of 
metal at its rim. Sahl stared at the 
terrain around it, then pointed to 
dark splotches on the ground a 
hundred yards beyond the tunnel. 

"You examine those?" he asked. 

"Yeah, we looked at them. 
Ground looks fused. I'd guess it was 
used as a landing site." 

"Probably. How about the lock? 
Think we can get through it?" 

"Have to hoist that wrecked 
hatch out of the way. I think four 
of us can manage it. If we can't, 
I brought a torch." 

Sahl leaped from the outcrop and 
and drifted down the six-foot drop 
to level ground. The others fol- 
lowed. Moments later they stood at 



10 



WALTER MILLER, JR. 



the mouth of the lock. Alaia kicked 
at a layer of dust with her boot, un- 
covered a smooth stone ramp in 
which the lock was set. 

Sahl knelt beside the torn hatch- 
way to tug at the sheared metal, 
door, wedged diagonally in the en- 
tranceway. "It's still fastened in one 
spot," he called. "Let's have that 
torch, Rulie." 

The scout fumbled at the valves 
of the two cylinders strapped to his 
back, then struck a blinding dart of 
blue-white flame from the hand- 
torch. Sahl flipped a dark filter 
down over his visor, then played the 
torch slowly over the jagged metal. 
Minutes later, the fastening pulled 
loose. The hatch slipped deeper and 
wedged. 

''All right, let's heave. Don't grab 
the hot spot." 

After a concerted effort, the 
hatch came free with a suddenness 
that sent Alaia sprawling. Faron 
Qun quickly helped her to her feet, 
leaving the others to struggle with 
the hatch. Sahl gave him a black 
look, but said nothing. 

Beneath the lock appeared a cor- 
ridor heaped with cave-in rubble, 
but apparently passable. Sahl stared 
down for a moment, then eyed the 
scout. "Notice anything," he 
grunted. 

"Yeah," the other muttered. 
"We're not going to be able to stand 
up down there. Looks" like a crawl- 
way." 

Sahl shook his head. "It was 
probably designed to walk in all 
right — but the designers evidently 
aren't very tall. Four feet high at 
the most." He stepped into the 
wrecked lock and let himself down 



gingerly to the top of the rubble 
heap. He crouched to shine a light 
down along the corridor, then 
glanced up at the others. 

"Can't see much. Let's go down. 
We'll stick close together. And 
don't touch anything that you don't 
understand." He slid feet-first down 
the heap of rubble and crouched 
in the gloom below. The others fol- 
lowed. 

"Last man ought to blaze a trail 
somehow, as we move along," he 
called. "So we won't get lost down 
here." 



FARON QUN picked up a chunk 
of rock from the heap and 
scratched it experimentally on the 
wall. It left a discernible mark. Sahl 
nodded and turned, to move along 
the narrow corridor. After a few 
paces, he went to his hands and 
knees and crawled. The ceiling was 
too low to permit walking without 
crouching uncomfortably. 

Blackness engulfed them, except 
for the light thrown by Sahl's hand- 
lamp. They passed a turn and came 
to a second hatch. Sahl ran his flash 
around the edge. 

"Tight seal," he grunted. "An- 
other lock." 

"They've probably got the place 
split into compartments in case of 
a leak," Faron offered. 

Sahl heaved at the door with his 
shoulder, but it failed to budge. 

"Try that button," Alaia sug- 
gested. 

The biologist snorted, but pressed 
the stud beside the hatch and held 
it down. With his helmet pressed 
against the metal, he thought he 



LET MY PEOPLE GO 

heard the feeble click of a relay, 
but the hatch remained closed. 

"That disk," she called, reaching 
over his shoulder. "Might be an 
emergency hand-control." 

"All right, turn it," he growled. 

She twisted it hard. After two 
turns, Sahl glanced down to sec a 
tiny spurt of dust licking up from 
a valve an inch above floor level. It 
startled him. He had expected no 
pressure to remain in the lock. 
When the jet of dust subsided, he 
heaved against the door again. It 
swung slowly open, revealing the 
inside of the lock. 

"We'll have to go through it two 
at a time," he said, then paused. 
"Anybody think to bring a weap- 
on?" 

No one answered for a moment. 
Then Faron snapped irritably, 
"Why should we, Sahl? Don't be 
silly!" 

"Yeah. I'm being silly. Gome on, 
Rulie, let's go through." 

They crawled into the lock and 
closed the hatch. Sahl closed the 
valve from the inside, and found 
a similar control for the inner door. 
Then he watched the fabric of his 
suit go slowly slack as the 'pressure 
biailt up in the lock. 

"Open it." Rulie grunted. 

A slight tug brought the thick 
hatch swinging inward. They stared 
beyond the door into a long domed 



Beaten by despair, she 
stoically awaited her fate. 




12 

room. The ceiling seemed to glow 
faintly, and Sahl extinguished his 
flashlight to check it. Bands of faint 
luminosity provided a dim glow- 
light to the room. The last feeble 
flicker, he guessed, of a lighting sys- 
tem abandoned long ago. 



THE ROOM was empty, and a 
layer of dust lay thick over the, 
ledges and across the floor. The 
dust was marked in places, but the 
marks were not fresh, and dust had 
partially covered them again. They 
closed the hatch behind them so 
that the others could come through. 

Sahl glanced at his pressure 
gauge. "Twelve pounds,'* he mut- 
tered. "I'm going to try a sniffer." 

Rulie protested. "Might get a 
lungful of chlorine! I can test for 
oxygen with the torch." 
• Sahl yelped and snatched it away 
from him before he struck a spark. 
"Might get worse than a lungful of 
chlorine if you strike that thing in 
here!" 

Rulie muttered apologetically. 
Sahl touched the sniffer valve at 
the side of his helmet and opened 
it a tenth of a turn, then cut off his 
oxygen supply and waited until the 
pressure in his suit fell to twelve 
pounds. Then he inhaled deeply 
several times. 

"Don't smell anything," he called. 
"I*m going to open it all the way. 
If I keel over, catch me." 

The air in the room smelled 
musty, but after a minute's experi- 
mental breathing he removed his 
helmet. Rulie loosened his own 
helmet, but the biologist tightened 
it for him again. 



WALTER MILLER, JR. 

"If I'm all right after half an 
hour," he shouted against Rulie's 
visor, "you can take it off." 

The others followed them 
through the lock and looked around 
quickly. Without his helmet, Sahl 
could not hear their conversation 
except as a muffled murmur from 
behind their visors. He motioned 
for them to follow, then crossed the 
room to enter another corridor be- 
yond. 

Somewhere in the station, nucle- 
ar reactors were still seeping a 
trickle of energy that kept a faint 
glow of light from the ceiling, and 
he hoped that Faron would be able 
to estimate the age of the place 
from radioactive decay. He sent 
Rulie back to call the Ark. 

As they progressed through a 
series of corridors, rooms and other 
locks, Sahl grew deeply puzzled. 
This was no observatory, nor was it 
an experimental station. It had ap- 
parently been, used as a transfer 
point to space, a way-station where 
landing launches from the planet 
shifted cargo or passengers with 
larger ships too bulky to land on the 
mother-world. Why had it been 
abandoned? Oxygen was still being 
released from the rocks. The place 
was still in fair condition. Had the 
builders abandoned space entirely? 

The station was not large, and an 
v hour's exploration brought them to 
its limits. Faron had discovered the 
reactors in a vault beneath the main 
level, where they supplied heat 
to an extensive bank of thermo- 
piles which still delivered a trickle 
of power to -the equipment. Faron 
let himself down into the vault to 
examine the equipment, while the 



LET MY PEOPLE GO 



13 



others continued to explore the 
main level, having removed their 
helmets to breathe the still air of 
the station. 



SAHL WATCHED Alaia puz- 
zling over a four-foot cube of 
transparent plastic that rested on a 
low pedestal in the center of the 
floor. 

"Know what it's for?" he asked. 

She shook her head and took a 
last swipe at the dust that covered 
it. "It's clear except for a few specks 
of something. Air bubbles maybe." 

Sahl extinguished his light and 
noticed that she stepped away from 
him quickly in the darkness. He 
grinned sourly to himself, and 
waited until his eyes adjusted to the 
lack of light. 

"What's the idea?" she muttered 
suspiciously. 

"Look at the specks in the 
plastic." 

"Why — they shine faintly ! Why?" 

"Probably bits of radioactive ma- 
terial covered with a phosphor." 
He studied it in silence for a mo- 
ment. One group of dots appeared 
to be joined by a web of fine lines. 
Their colors ranged from dull red 
to blue-white, and they varied in 
brilliance. "A star map, I think," 
he said suddenly. "That small or- 
ange one near the center of the 
web. Epsilon Eridani, their sun." 

"Why the web?" . 

"Probably indicates the places 
their ships have — " He stopped sud- 
denly and sucked in his breath. The 
web included Sol. 

Alaia interpreted his silence. "I 
wonder how long ago," she mur- 



mured. 

Sahl turned as footsteps ap- 
proached from behind. It was Ru- 
lie, and he seemed puzzled by an 
object in his hand. He held it out 
and stared at Morgun Sahl. 

"Bone, Sahl?" 

The biologist took the six-inch 
fragment and turned it over once. 
His hands seemed to freeze as they 
held it, and he was silent for sev- 
eral seconds. 

"Where did you find this, Rulie?" 

"Back by the rubble heap, when 
I went back out to check with the 
Ark. Why? What is it?" 

The biologist looked up slowly. 
"Piece of a human tibia," he said, 
and his voice was somehow fiat. 



Chapter III 

THERE'S ONLY one explana- 
tion!" Parn was saying as he 
paced the floor of his cabin, occa- 
sionally glancing at Sahl. 

"What's that, Skipper?" 

"An Earth civilization that arche- 
ologists don't know anything about. 
A civilization that got to space be- 
fore it died out and disappeared." 

"I don't think so," Sahl dis- 
agreed quickly. "A civilization like 
that would leave too many traces. 
If primitive architectural ruins 
stand for thousands of years, as in 
Egypt — -think how long the remains 
of a technological culture would en- 
dure. No, Skipper, I don't agree at 
all." 

"All right, damn it! How do you 
explain that piece of bone." 

"I don't." 



14 



WALTER MILLER, JR. 



Parn snorted irritably. "Do you 
even know it's human?" 

The biologist shrugged. "You got 
the surgeon's opinion to confirm my 
own." 

"Isn't there any way to tell how 
old it is?" 

"The lab's working on it, but 
they aren't very experienced at that 
sort of thing." 

"What about this carbon- 14 
method?" 

Sahl nodded indifferently. 
"They'll try it, but we can't trust 
results." 

"Why not? I thought it was very 
accurate?" 

"It is- — on Earth, where we know 
the percentage of radioactive car- 
bon ingested during life. But how 
long had the fellow been away from 
Earth? And what percentage did 
he get while he was away? Was he 
even born on Earth?" 

Parn clenched his fists and began 
beating his knuckles together with 
thoughtful regularity while he 
paced the floor. "Maybe humanoid 
creatures evolve wherever it's pos- 
sible," he ventured. "Maybe the 
cities down there are — " 

"What about those four-foot ceil- 
ings in the station?" Sahl inter- 
rupted. "That tibia came from a 
man about our height." 

Parn clucked irritably. "Well, you 
said some of the ceilijigs were ten 
feet and over. "Why don't you 
judge from that?' 

Sahl smiled wryly. "How about 
— say — the Cathedral of Notre 
Dame. Would you judge the sta- 
ture of the builders by the height 
of the nave, or by the size of the 
smallest door?" 



Parn grunted defeat. "All right, 
why don't you venture an opinion." 

"It'd be more in the nature of a 
wild guess, I think." 

"Make it, then." 

"Well — let's turn the situation 
around. Suppose we had come here 
as explorers rather than as colo- 
nists. Suppose we landed on the 
planet and found a semi-intelligent 
species, and we were interested in 
studying it further. Suppose we 
captured a few, and carried them 
back home for breeding purposes." 



PARN GLANCED at him sharply 
as if to interrupt, but Sahl con- 
tinued : "That three-dimensional 
star-map we found makes me think 
the builders have visited Sol. If they 
visited it before Man began civi- 
lizing himself, we'd have no legends, 
nor any trace of the visit. They 
could have made off with a few 
humans and we'd never know it 
had happened." 

"Why would they want hu- 
mans r 

Sahl shrugged. "Why do we 
catch wild animals and put them 
in cages? Why did we domesticate 
dogs? Curiosity, maybe some use- 
fulness. Man has brought back 
specimens from every planet he's 
ever visited. Maybe he's been a 
specimen himself. It's just a guess." 

"Pretty wild guess, if you ask 
me," Parn snorted. "Human beings 
would be rather dangerous pets to 
have around." 

"Would they? Humans have 
made pets — or slaves — of humans." 

Parn slumped into a chair, shak- 
ing his head slowly. "None of which 



LET MY PEOPLE GO 



15 



answers the question: 'What are 
we going to do?' " 

"How are the colonists taking 
it?" " 

"Better than I expected. They're 
restless, but quiet. Maybe too quiet. 
I don't know. I let them out of the 
ship to roam around. They work 
off steam that way." 

"If they're not getting disturbed," 
Sahl offered, "I suggest we wait 
until we've gone over that station 
with a fine-tooth comb. Faron is 
still puzzling over the reactors. And 
we might learn more about the 
builders by closer study of the in- 
terior structure." 

"How?" 

"Well, by measuring dimensions, 
for one thing. The shape of the 
doorways suggest that they're small 
bipeds — or at least, their height is 
about three times their width. And 
Faron found something else down 
in the reactor vault that might be 
significant." 

"What's that?" 

"A pair of goggles, a circuit dia- 
gram, and a place to sit down. The 
goggles are too closely spaced for 
human eyes, and perfectly round, 
but the strap just about fits my 
head. The circuit diagram is hung 
on a wall, and we have to stoop to 
read it. And the' seat would be 
about the right height for a child 
with a foot -high knee." 

Parn threw up his hands. "All 
right. Go ahead and study all you 
want to. Until they start shooting 
at us, anyway." 

Sahl glanced at the scope, noticed 
that it was on. He grinned. "Been 
watching for them to start?" 

"I've been watching. Now get 



out, Sahl. I got some worrying to 
do. Go find Alaia." 

The biologist stiffened. "What 
makes you say that?" 

"Eh? What makes—?" The cap- 
tain paused, smirked sadistically. 
"Oh, sorry. I must have been think- 
ing of Faron Qun, eh? Don't slam 
the door." 

Sahl left it open instead, but he 
heard it slam when Parn got up to 
close it. He smiled irritably, and 
went down through the colonists' 
quarters to listen to the chatter. But 
the chatter was absent. Gloom per- 
vaded the ship. He felt it hanging 
tensely, murderously, in the air, 
waiting to become rage or rebellion 
or sudden popular decision. These 
people were not going back to 
Earth. They had gambled thirteen 
years and they didn't intend to quit 
as losers. He passed quietly through 
the passenger-areas of the ship, and 
stopped at his own quarters long 
enough to slip into a pressure suit. 
He stopped again at Alaia's cabin, 
hesitating before the door. But he 
moved on without knocking. It 
might embarrass someone if Faron 
Qun were with her. Sahl tried to 
grin his way around the twinge of 
anger that followed the thought, 
but he failed to rid himself of it. 



HE TIGHTENED his helmet 
and stepped out through the 
lock. Lunar night, with the planet's 
disk filling a huge patch of sky. 
The colonists had tagged the plan- 
et "Merrigull's Guesswork", had 
later shortened it to "Guesswork", 
Sahl had idly speculated that after 
a dozen, or ten dozen generations, 



16 



WALTER MILLER, JR. 



its name might evolve into "Kesu- 
ark", and it might be regarded as 
the center of the universe, person- 
alized by a symbol of fecundity, and 
perhaps thought of as the vale of 
tears into which Man had been cast 
after his original sin in an Eden 
called "Erd" or "Urth", or maybe 
"Brooklyn". But now, it seemed 
more likely that the planet would 
stay just what it already was, and 
that it would never be infected with 
humanity. 

As he strode toward the mouth 
of the tunnel, he saw Alaia and 
Faron Qun coming around the out- 
crop, arm in arm, occasionally 
touching the metal of their helmets 
together as if the steel shells pos- 
sessed somesthetic receptors capable 
of savoring the contact. They hailed 
him as he approached, and his 
headset burbled as both tried to call 
at once. Alaia won the battle. 

"Congratulate us, Sahl!" she 
called. 

"Why? Is Qun pregnant?" 

"See here, Sahl!" sputtered the 
chemist. 

"Sorry. What's up?" 

"Never mind!" Alaia snapped, 
marching haughtily past him. Far- 
on gave him a cold stare in passing. 

Sahl turned to watch them go. 
Once Alaia glanced over her shoul- 
der. She tried to toss her head, but 
her helmet waggled crazily. 

"Ridiculous!" he hissed to him- 
self. Then he unclenched his fists 
and stalked on toward the shaft of 
the underground station. 

Three workmen were sifting 
through the rubble, searching for 
more bones. The biologist leaped 
down into the tunnel to inspect 



their findings: several vertabrae, a 
few snapped ribs, and assorted odds 
and ends. Apparently the meteor- 
ite had crashed into the airlock 
while the man was in the first tun- 
nel-section, and the responsible oc- 
cupants had not cared enough 
about him to bother removing the 
body. But if the station had been in 
continuous use at the time, . surely 
they would have removed it for 
reasons of sanitation. Or at least 
for appearance's sake. I, thought 
Sahl, wouldn't leave a dead cat on 
my sidewalk unless I didn't intend 
to be back. 

The suspicion was growing on 
him that the builders had once used 
the station extensively, then had 
tapered off, visiting it at first only 
on rare occasions, then not at all. 

Why? Why would a race which 
had once mastered space come to 
consider it as no longer a worthy 
pursuit? Had they been driven 
down from the heavens by an ex- 
haustion of resources? Disaster? Or 
the final ennui of discovering that 
there was no magic in the sky, no 
heaven, no solution to everyday 
problems? 

He snorted^o himself. He was 
projecting human characteristics 
onto the Eridanian race : a fruitless 
and possibly dangerous pastime. He 
went on down into the station to 
join the others who had taken up 
the task of combing the station for 
evidence pertaining to the builders. 

THE EVIDENCE was accumu- 
lating, but it seemed to reveal 
very little. They appeared to be 
small bipeds, roughly humanoid in 



LET MY PEOPLE GO 



17 



appearance. Their number-system 
was octal, suggesting perhaps four- 
fingered hands. Their written lan- 
guage was not phonetic, but seemed 
to be based on a system of ideo- 
graphs, and a rather complicated 
system at that. It occurred to Sahl 
that they might not communicate 
by sound-waves, but he dismissed 
the notion as growing out of frag- 
mentary evidence. 

A telephone circuit had been run 
from the Ark to the underground 
station. It began jangling frantical- 

ly. 

"Sahl!" Parn bellowed when he 
picked it up. "A spacecraft has been 
sighted about five miles away, over 
the hills! It's just hanging there on 
its jets, watching us. Get, back to 
the Ark. Everybody." 

The biologist gathered an incred- 
ulous frown. "What kind of a 
ship?" he gasped. 

"Sleek little rocket. About half 
the size of a launch. Hurry back. If 
it land^, I want you to size up the 
occupants." 

"Okay, Skipper. But I doubt that 
there're any of them in it. I'll bet 
it's a remote control ship, or a com- 
puter-piloted job." 

"Why? What makes you say 
that?" 

"Simple. They don't know any- 
thing about us. They're probably 
holding up a hat on a stick to see if 
we'll shoot at it, and maybe to see 
what kind of weapons we've got. 
I'll be right out." 

He hung up and yelled at the 
others, then scrambled through the 
lock and out of the station. He 
paused to peer at the dark sky in 
search of the ship, then found it at 



about thirty degrees above the hor- 
izon in the west. A silvery sliver that 
glittered in the sun, nose pointed 
skyward as if landing. But the 
thrust of its jets just matched the 
tug of gravity, and it hung motion- 
less in mid-air, breathing a fiery tail 
downward. 

Sahl sprinted toward the Ark. 
Faron and Alaia and several others 
of the staff were assembled in Parn's 
cabin when he burst inside. The 
Captain waved him to a seat. Faron 
was speaking. 

"It's probably a television ship 
sent to scan us, Skipper. I think we 
ought to m-ake some friendly ges- 
ture toward it, or at least not be- 
have hostilely. We could probably 
bring it down with a few bursts, but 
it'd undoubtedly lead to trouble." 

"No question about that," Parn 
muttered. "Well, Sahl? You itching 
to say something?" 

"Yes. Give me a pilot and a 
launch and permission to blast off 
and approach the vessel cautious- 
ly." 

"Wh— why? Suppose it shot you 
down? We'd lose a launch, and 
twenty-four people will be strand- 
ed. No, I can't do it." 

He shook his head quickly. "Of 
course it's a risk, but it might pay 
off. Suppose it is a robot ship? If 
I can board it and ride it back to 
the planet, we've gotten an emis- 
sary down there without wasting a 
launch." 

Parn sat with his mouth open for 
a moment, then shouted: "And 
suppose it's a one-way ship? Sup- 
pose it doesn't go back— but only 
sits there and — " 

"Skipper!" A low gasp from 



18 

Alaia who had been watching flie 
screen. 

They stared. The small rocket, 
motionless at first, had begun to 
move. Tilting its axis at a slight 
angle, it began whisking rapidly to- 
ward them. Wolek Parn went white 
and began jabbing buttons. 

"Man emergency stations, all 
hands!" he bellowed into the inter- 
com. "All hands in pressure suits, 
man the launches! Prepare for 
blast-off!" 

Alaia and the other launch pilots 
scrambled through the door. Faron 
raced for the reactor room. Sahl 
sat tjuietly staring at the screen. 

"Well, everybody got some exer- 
cise anyhow," he said as the rocket 
landed on the flats beyond the tun- 
nel's mouth, fanning up 'great 
whirls of scorched dust. He climbed 
to his feet. "Coming?" he grunted 
over his shoulder. 

"Don't go out there!" Parn 
barked. "Let them make a first 
move." 

"They've already made it," he 
called back through the hatch. "If 
they wanted to mess us up, a few 
armor piercing shells are all they 
needed to do the job. Coming?" 

Mumbling irritably, the Captain 
reached for his helmet. 



Chapter IV 



THE DUST was subsiding, and 
the rocket" was a slender spire 
through the thin haze as they left 
the Ark's lock and began walking 
slowly across the lunar plain. 

"See that black hole in the hull?" 



WALTER MILLER, JR. 

Parn snapped. "They're either 
watching us or aiming at us." 

"I see it. Let's keep walking." 

"Probably a television camera, 
eh?" 

"If it makes you feel any better to 
think so." 

"Sgerul ingbagge khannil du?" 
came a third voice on the inter- 
helmet communicator frequency. 

The men glanced at each other 
nervously. Sahl shook his head. "It 
wasn't me, Skipper." 

Parn set his jaw and glared" 
fixedly at the rocket as they ap- 
proached. A hatch slid open in its 
side, revealing an empty lock. 
Something began snaking down 
from the lock toward the ground. 

"What the—!" 

"A ladder!" Sahl breathed. "A 
flexible ladder. They want us to 
come up. What do you think?" 

Parn paused. "I — I don't like it. 
I wish they'd show themselves." He 
paused again. "But we've got to 
face them sometime, I guess." 

"Yeah." 

They stood at the foot of the lad- 
der, looking up the wall of gleam- 
ing metal toward the lock. A lense, 
projecting from the side of the ship 
had turned downward to survey 
them with its mechanical gaze. 

Sahl grunted nervously and 
started climbing. Soon he felt Parn 
coming after him. What manner of 
creatures were they about to meet? 
Or was the ship remotely piloted? 
Once they were inside, would it 
blast off without warning — a speci- 
men bottle that had been filled? 

He scrambled up into the lock 
and stood gazing back toward the 
Ark as Parn climbed up after him. 



LET MY PEOPLE GO 



19 



Two figures were walking across the 
plain toward them, and he thought 
he recognized Faron and Alaia. But 
the hatch slid closed, shutting off 
the view. 



THEY, STOOD waiting tensely 
while air hissed from the ship 
into the lock. Sahl took a sniffer, 
then removed his helmet, for spec- 
troscopic analysis had already re- 
vealed that the planet's atmosphere 
contained a breathable supply of 
oxygen. Parn, too, slipped the hel- 
met from his shoulders, having 
smelled nothing peculiar. 

But suddenly Sahl was groping 
feebly to fit it in place again. "Gas!" 
he gasped. "Odorless, anaesthetic — 
Skipper! Skipper!" 

His vision blurred. He slumped 
against the wall, then slid to the 
floor. His last impression was that 
of the inner hatch rolling quietly 
open. Then blackness. 

"Morgun Sahl. Open your eyes." 
A soft purring voice that he did 
not recognize, a quiet mechanical 
monotone. He felt intuitively that 
he had slept for quite some time. 
And his first fear was that the rock- 
et had gone into space. But he still 
felt the faint moon- gravity beneath 
him, and no drum of rockets broke 
the silence. 

"Morgun Sahl. Open your eyes." 
He was strapped in a metal seat, 
with bands of steel encircling his 
wrists and ankles. He opened his 
eyes and blinked away blindness in 
the bright light. He sat in a glass 
cubicle, peering out into a room 
whose walls were instrument pan- 
els. A small machine faced him, and 



it was connected to a loudspeaker 
mounted in the glass. Beyond it, a 
man lay fiat on his back on a nar- 
row table — -a hairless man with saf- 
fron skin and the face of an idiot. 
The man's lips moved, and a voice 
came from the loudspeaker. 

"Assimilate your surroundings, 
then I shall release you. You were 
subjected to a hypnotic drug. It was 
necessary that we might quickly 
gain command of your language. Its 
structure was analyzed and entered 
in the translator you see before you. 
I am speaking my own tongue. The 
voice you are hearing is your own, 
built up of recorded syllables you 
spoke while in trance." 

Sahl forced himself to remain si- 
lent and to refrain from reacting 
while he studied his surroundings. 
Parn was not in sight. There was 
only the glass partition, the ma- 
chine, and the saffron man who lay 
speaking quietly to a microphone 
that hung down from overhead. 

"How do you feel, Morgun 
Sahl?" 

"Dizzy, but fair. Unlock me. I 
won't kick the place apart." 

The wristlocks snapped open, 
then the ankle-bands. He stood up 
stretching. He felt calm, too calm. 
Drugs? Or perhaps post- hypnotic 
suggestion? He realized that he 
should be violently startled. 

"Where is Wolek Parn?" he 
asked. 

"Sleeping. He will awaken soon,, 
as will the others." 

"Others?" 

"The two who followed you." 

"Alaia and Faron. Are we pris- 
oners r 

"No. We realize that our treat- 



20 



WALTER MILLER, JR. 



merit of you runs contrary to your 
ethical system. We did not realize 
it before the hypnotic interview. 
You are not prisoners, We wished 
only to establish contact, and to 
study you. We welcome your col- 
ony to our planet." 



SAHL SAT very still, studying 
the reclining figure beyond the 
glass partition. The puffy, Neander- 
thaloid features of the saffron man, 
and the small circular tattoo on his 
shoulder, and the simple white loin- 
cloth that he wore did not somehow 
jibe with the complex science sug- 
gested by the visible equipment. 
The man's head was bald, with a 
heavy protruding brow and a small 
flat skull. His body was thick and 
heavy, with long arms and broad 
hands. Sahl imagined that he would 
stoop when standing, for his shoul- 
ders, though thick, seemed steeply 
sloping. 

"May I ask some questions?" he 
grunted. 

"Certainly," purred the loud- 
speaker. 

"Are you the dominant race on 
the planet?" 

"Yes." 

"Are your ancestors locally 
evolved?" 

"Yes." 

Sahl hesitated, staring at the 
man. He shook his head slowly. 
Somehow he could not believe that 
the fellow was not originally de- 
scended of Earth stock. 

"Apparently your race has ex- 
plored extensively in space during 
its history. Why did you give it up?" 

A brief pause, then: "We found 



what we regard as a more mature 
goal than mere widespread expan- 
sion. For thousands of years our ac- 
tivities have been directed toward 
the biologic integration of all life- 
forms on our planet." 

"Into a world-organism, you 
mean?" 

"Ultimately perhaps. Interde- 
pendence and elimination of de- 
structive parasitism are the imme- 
diate goals. Symbiosis rather than 
conflict. You might call it biologic 
socialism." 

"With your race leading and in- 
tegrating?" 

"Naturally." 

It sounded plausible, Sahl 
thought. Perhaps earthlings would 
someday become bored with the 
stars and turn back to their own 
planet to "rule over the fishes of 
the sea, and the fowls of the air, 
and all living creatures". For they 
had never really tried to do so, had 
never tried world-wide schemes of 
biologic control. 

"But why," he said slowly, "are 
you ready to invite outsiders? What 
makes you think we would cooper- 
ate?" 



THE VOICE was silent for a 
time, then: "We have taken in 
other outsiders. The fauna and flora 
of our planet is no longer local, but 
a composite — made up of selected 
species from forty star-systems. You 
will find it something like an arti- 
ficial garden. It would be virtually 
impossible for you not to cooper- 
ate." 

Sahl wondered how much infor- 
mation had been gleaned from him 



LET MY PEOPLE GO 



21 



along with his language. Quite a 
lot, he guessed, since the very struc- 
ture of a language implied many 
things about the linguistic animal 
that spoke it. 

"Maybe you understand," he said 
slowly, "why we came here. We 
want to establish a colony and try 
to equip it with our own brand of 
culture. Our culture is expansive, 
exploitive. I fail to see how it could 
fit in without some strong shift in 
cultural goal." 

"That would be expected." 

Sahl frowned. "You don't under- 
stand. Our cultural continuity is as 
important to us as "genetic continu- 
ity." 

"Why?" 

The biologist groped for an ex- 
planation. "A leader of one of our 
primitive tribes once put it this way, 
when his own culture was dying. He 
said, 'In the beginning, God gave 
to every people a cup of clay, from 
which it drank its life. Now our cup 
is broken.' " 

The Eridanian was silent for a 
long time. When he spoke, his tone 
remained unchanged— for the ma- 
chine had but one tone^ one rhythm 
of speech. But Sahl somehow felt an 
aura of menace associated with the 
words. 

"If you wish to survive, you must 
come to our planet. If you come to 
our planet, you must conform to 
our patterns and our plans. You 
cannot come to expand and ex- 
ploit." 

Sahl weighed it carefully for a 
moment. "Before we decide, may 
we send a delegation down to look 
around?" 

"That was anticipated," came 



the quick reply. "We will take your 
delegation down and bring it 
back." A pause, then: "Wolek Parn 
has awakened. We will speak with 
him. Then you may return to your 
ship to discuss the matter among 
yourselves if you wish." There was 
a click, and the loudspeaker went 
dead. 

A sudden thought came to him. 
How did the fellow know Parn was 
awake? He had not moved nor 
opened his eyes. Sahl watched him 
carefully. His lips still moved, but 
no sound penetrated the glass wall. 
Evidently the translator's output 
had been channelled to another 
compartment. Evidently the fellow 
was talking to Parn. 

Two hours of waiting and watch- 
ing followed, two hours during 
which a suspicion flickered in his 
mind, and grew to proportions of 
near-certainty: the man who lay on 
the table and talked was a cat's 
paw, a servant of something else. 

But who was using him? 

Observation failed to answer the 
question or even confirm the sus- 
picion. A panel slid open behind 
him, revealing the door to the air- 
lock. His helmet lay on the floor. 
He fastened it quickly in place, and 
the airlock opened. Simultaneously 
Parn entered it from a flanking 
hatch. They glanced at each other 
silently, grimly, but neither spoke. 

Before the hatch closed behind 
Parn, Sahl saw another glass cubi- 
cle beyond it. Another suspicion en- 
tered his mind: that this ship had 
been designed specifically for this 
one mission. 

Moments later, they were de- 
scending the ladder to the plain be- 



22 

low, and the comforting beam of a 
searchlight picked them up from 
the Ark. It was night, and the warm 
tinted crescent of the planet shone 
overhead. Somehow it seemed 
gloomy and forbidding. 



Chapter V 



THEY SEEM to have inter- 
viewed all four of us separately," 
said Parn when they were back in 
the Ark again. "Let's compare 
notes. I'll begin with what hap- 
pened to me." 

The Skipper related his conver- 
sation with the Eridanian matter- 
of-factly, and it differed only in de- 
tail from Sahl's experience. The 
Skipper apparently had reacted 
more angrily, but the general line of 
discussion was the same. The same 
was true of the others, except for 
Faron Qun, who apparently had 
been more eager than the rest to 
take advantage of the Eridanian's 
"generous offer", as he put it. 

"Let's get it straight," Parn 
grunted. "I said flatly that we 
wouldn't fit in like a cog in some- 
body else's wheel. Sahl took a dim 
view of it. Alaia kept her mouth 
shut — which was probably smart. 
And Faron, you thought their offer 
was a good idea." 

"I still do." 

"That remains to be seen. The 
point is, they probably realize now 
that there's going to be a diversity 
of opinion among us. They might 
try to take advantage of it some- 
how. But the main question of 
course is: 'What the devil do they 



WALTER MILLER, JR. 

have in mind for us?' " 

"They seem to want us, all 
right," muttered the girl. 

"But why?" 

"Maybe the delegation can find 
out." 

"That brings up the question of 
who's going." 

Alaia glanced around quickly. 
"How about us?" 

Parn shook his head, grinning 
wryly. "Not you, Ala. I'll send Qun 
and Sahl." 

The girl reddened angrily, fell si- 
lent. Faron Qun touched her arm 
lightly. "I'd rather you'd stay where 
it's safer. . . ." * 

"Excuse me, Skipper," Sahl in- 
terrupted sourly. "But I think we'd 
better have a pilot along, just in 
case." 

Faron snorted contemptuously. 
"In case of what?" 

"In case we have to seize the ship 
and come back on our own." 

"Of all the silly—" 

"Maybe it's not so silly, Faron," 
Parn growled. "I believe you're 
right, Sahl." 

"Not Alaia, of course, but — " 

She bounded to her feet angrily. 
"Why not Alaia?" she demanded. 

Parn sighed and shrugged. "All 
three of you go, then. I'll have to 
stay and watch over the brood, I 
guess. Try to get them to establish 
radio contact with us, so you can 
keep us informed." 



TWO DAYS later, the small Eri- 
danian ship bearing the three 
Earthlings spaceward, climbed a 
column of flame. They sat locked in 
a small but comfortably furnished 



LET MY PEOPLE GO 



23 



_ compartment until blast-off was ac- 
complished and acceleration fell to 
something around a gravity. They 
waited. The compartment was 
locked. Sahl rapped sharply at the 
door, but there was no answer. 

"No sightseeing, permitted," he 
grunted suspiciously. 

"They probably just want to keep 
a balanced loading, so they don't 
want us moving around." 

Sahl glanced at the pilot. "Think 
so?" he muttered. 

She frowned at him irritably, but 
shook her head. "I doubt it. They 
must have automatic trimming 
mechanisms to correct for slight 
load unbalance." 

"No sightseeing permitted, then," 
he reasserted. 

Faron sneered slightly. "You've 
got a lousy attitude, Sahl. It makes 
me sick." 

"That's too bad," the biologist 
sympathized quietly. 

Alaia glanced from one to the 
other of them. Then she twisted 
Faron's ear with playful sternness. 
"Sorry, darling, but you're out of 
line this time." <" 

He reddened, and fell silent. An 
hour passed. Alaia, normally calm, 
began to seem restless. She moved 
about the small compartment nerv- 
ously, peering at each fixture and 
marking. 

"This ship is new," she muttered. 
"Brand new! I'll bet it's the first 
flight." 

Sahl watched her, but said noth- 
ing. She reached a grille-covered 
vent over the hatch and tried to 
pull herself up to peer through it. 
The grille came free and she fell 
clumsily. Faron helped her up, 



while the biologist stared up at the 
opening with interest. 
. "Only a ventilator duct," she 
said. 

"Yeah, but—" Sahl stood up. 
"Might be big enough to crawl 
through." 

"Not for you." 

Sahl glanced at her. She might 
be slender enough to wiggle into the 
duct, unless her hips . . . 

"Get that notion out of your 
head, Sahl!" Faron snapped. He 
picked up the grille and moved to- 
ward the opening to replace it. 

"Put it down," Sahl said tone- 
lessly. 

Something about his voice made 
Faron hesitate. 

Alaia said, "Let me try it. I want 
a look at the control room." 

"You're not going to do it," Far- 
on growled, blocking the d\ict open- 
ing- 

"Move, Faron," murmured the 
biologist. "Let's not have a tussle." 

"Let's do." 

"It would be rather one-sided, 
I'm afraid," Sahl grunted, produc- 
ing an automatic. "Ever get pistol- 
whipped, Qun?" 

"Wh — where did you get that? 
What do you mean by bringing a 
weapon? This is supposed to be a 
peaceful — " 

"Yeah. Now move. Help her up 
in the duct." 

Faron stepped reluctantly aside, 
his face bright with anger. Alaia 
gave him a peculiar glance, then 
scrambled up and into the opening 
without assistance. She glanced 
back at Sahl and beckoned him 
close. 

"Three openings just up ahead. 



24 



WALTER MILLER, JR. 



Watch down the duct in case I get 
caught." 

He handed her the gun and 
nodded. "Don't go too far. Return 
trip'll be harder, backing up." 

She stuffed the gun in her belt 
and gave Faron a warning look. 
"You better keep your temper, 
F.Q." She crawled slowly out of 
sight. 

Faron glared at the biologist: 
"Fool! Don't you imagine they're 
watching us? Know exactly what's 
going on?" 

"I doubt it. They're probably too 
busy to bother." He climbed to the 
duct opening and glanced along it. 
Alaia's body blocked the light from 
the other openings toward the front 
of the ship, but faintly he could 
hear her moving. 

"Well?" Faron growled. 

"You watch if you want to." Sahl 
returned to a seat. 

Faron peered along the dark duct 
for several minutes. "She's reached 
another grille," he muttered sud- 
denly. "I can see the light — and — 
oh! no!" 

"What's wrong?" 

"The grille came loose. She — 
Alaia, no! No!" 



SAHL HEARD a muffled report, 
then another. He scrambled for 
the opening, as Faron -began beat- 
ing frantically at the hatch. 

"They saw her! They shot her!" 
Sahl stared toward the faint light 
a dozen yards down the duct. He 
could see her faintly, her arm 
dangling from the opening. She lay 
very still. Somewhere someone was 
screaming gibberish. 



"Help me!" Faron howled. "Help 
me get it open!" 

Together they battered the locked 
hatch. The light metal door seemed 
to give slightly with each crash. 
After four tries, the lock gave way, 
and they spilled out into the corri- 
dor. A few paces away, the saffron- 
skinned man stood staring at them 
idiotically. Suddenly he opened his 
mouth and screamed. After a mo- 
ment, he screamed again — without 
moving. Scalp crawling, Sahl darted 
around him. He seemed not to see 
them, but continued screaming as 
they ran down the corridor. 

Faron kicked open a hatch, then 
froze. Sahl's gun lay on the floor 
beyond it, and Alaia's hand hung 
limply down from above. And there 
was something else. A small man- 
like creature with a huge head lay 
dead in a pool of red-brown blood 
near an instrument panel, his skull 
torn open by a ten millimeter slug 
from the automatic. A fat hand- 
weapon with multiple barrels was 
still clutched in his small fist. 

"See about Alaia," Sahl snapped, 
grabbing up the gun. "I'll watch 
the corridor." 

Faron stepped inside and felt her 
wrist. "Thank God," he breathed, 
"she's alive. Unconscious." 

"Wounded badly?" 

"I— I can't tell." He paused. 
"There's something stuck in her 
face. Help me get her down." 

Sahl paused. Another saffron 
crewman was coming along the cor- 
ridor, feeling his way and stum- 
bling, as if blinded. He kept pawing 
at his head. He moved past Sahl 
without glancing at him. 

The biologist watched him go, 



LET MY PEOPLE GO 



25 



then stepped inside and helped 
Faron haul the limp girl down out 
of the duct. 

"Damn you, Sahl! Now we're in 
trouble, bad trouble!" 

"All right, save it till later, will 
you? There's no time to fight about 
it now." 

They stretched her out on the 
floor and examined her for wounds. 

"Nothing," Faron -muttered. "Ex- 
cept these little red marks on her 
face, and — " He bent over her and 
jerked three tiny splinters from her 
cheek and* 1 laid them on his palm. 
"Crystals. Sharp little crystals." 



SAHL LOOKED at her pupils 
and felt her pulse. "I'd say she 
was drugged." He arose and crossed 
the cabin to bend over the dead 
creature. He disentangled the weap- 
on from a slender four-digital 
hand and inspected it closely. He 
drew back what seemed to be a 
charging-plunger, then aimed at the 
dead thing and flicked a switch. It 
kicked in his hand and emitted a 
dull cough. Six crystals appeared, 
stuck in a patch of the creature's 
hide. They began to volatilize at 
once. 

"Anaesthetic crystals,"he guessed. 
"Must be quick acting, but not 
quick enough to keep Ala from 
shooting back when she got stung." 

"This is terrible!" Faron 
mourned. "Now they'll never let us 
colonize." 

"Wake up, fellow," Sahl snapped, 
pointing at the dead creature. 
"That's one of our hosts, not the 
idiots with orange hides." 

He tossed Faron the Eridanian's 



weapon and stepped through the 
hatch. "I'm going to search the 
ship, see if he's the only one." 

He moved warily along the corri- 
dors, peering cautiously into each 
compartment. He found one other 
saffron servant, curled up in the 
foetal position on the floor of a 
/ cabin. The man did not look up. 
There were no other creatures like 
the one Alaia had killed. And the 
three servants — if such they were — 
appeared to be completely de- 
mented. They seemed unaware of 
their surroundings, stared vacuous^ 
ly at nothing. The search convinced 
him that automatic devices were 
keeping the rocket on a constant 
heading with respect to the planet's 
gravitic field — which would make it 
a spiralling course with respect to 
a fixed framework. Unless the de- 
vices corrected when they reached 
the atmosphere, or unless they 
_ could get control of the ship, they 
would go in like a meteor and 
crash. 

He returned to the compartment 
where Alaia lay moaning but still 
unconscious. Faron was studying 
the instrument panels. He turned 
away white-faced to stare at the 
biologist. His voice was high and 
tense. 

"Do you realize this is the control 
cabin? That thing was piloting the 
ship! Somebody's got to take over!" 

"He's the only one of his kind 
aboard. I guess it'll have to be you. 
I'm a mechanical moron, Qun." 

Faron groaned. "I can't even 
pilot one of our own ships. And 
we'll never be able to read the 
markings on these instruments, or 
know what they mean. The con- 



26 

trols look JaMy simplified, but — " 
He shook his head, pointed at the 
screen. The ship seemed to be 
plunging surfaceward at a shallow 
angle. 

"We've got to get Alaia awake. 
Maybe she can analogize between 
those gadgets and familiar con- 
trols." 

Faron growled a low curse and 
went to the hatch. "I'm going to see 
if I can't shut off the jets somehow. 
We might still have enough of an 
orbital velocity-component to carry 
us around the planet, if we can stop 
the rockets from skidding us back 
any more." 

"An orbit?" 

"Yeah. Probably with an under- 
ground perihelion. If we get out of 
this, Said, I'm going to kick your 
face in." 

"I'll be looking forward to it," 
the biologist murmured, as he knelt 
beside Alaia. 



TWENTY MINUTES later, the 
instrument panel's lights began 
flashing frantically, and relays clat- 
tered loudly. He straightened, sens- 
ing vaguely that they were falling. 
His weight was diminishing rapidly. 
Then he noticed that the thunder 
of the rockets was dying. It became 
a dull roar, then a purr. 

Faron came back. ""I got the re- 
actors damped down," he said, "but 
it may not matter. Look at the 
screen." 

Sahl turned. The scope revealed 
the curving horizon of the planet, 
but the cross-hairs rested only a 
fraction of a degree above the misty 
limb. 



WALTER MILLER, JR. 

"Will we skim through that at- 
mosphere?" he asked. 

"If we do, we'll melt the hull off 
at this speed. We'll just have to 
wait and see." He glanced down at 
the girl. "How is she?" 

"Opened her eyes once. Drifted 
off again. Might bring her around 
if we had some sort of stimulant." 

Faron fumbled quickly through 
his suit, brought out a small vial. 
"Neurodrine," he grunted. "I 
brought it along to keep awake in 
case we were pretty busy." 

The biologist took it quickly and 
shook out two small capsules. "You 
on the stuff?" he asked. 

"Of course not!" 

The vehemence of the denial 
made Sahl guess that Faron was at 
least worried about the possibility 
of addiction. The drug did not set 
up a true craving, but habitual 
users became listless and apathetic 
when it was withdrawn, and they 
had to continue taking it in order 
to stay normally alert. 

He took the capsules apart and 
emptied the white powder in Alaia's 
mouth. Her jaw worked spasmodi- 
cally, and he^held her mouth closed 
lest she reflexively spit out the bitter 
compound. Five minutes passed. 

Sahl became aware of a faint 
whine, high-pitched and all-per-' 
vading. He glanced at Faron who 
was staring at the instruments. 

"Upper fringes of the atmos- 
phere!" the chemist groaned. 

"That whistle?" 

"Yeah!" He hurried out of the 
cabin and returned a moment later, 
his face taut with worry. 

"What's up?" Sahl asked. 

"The temperature. Leading edges 



LET MY PEOPLE GO 



27 



of projections on the hull. Red spots 
here and there." He stared at the 
screen. The cross-hairs seemed a 
little higher above the horizon now, 
but the horizon's curvature was less. 
"We're low, too low. Maybe sixty 
miles." 

"Perihelion?" 

"Maybe we're at it. But if that 
air slows us down enough, we'll 
drop." 



ALAIA BEGAN muttering aloud. 
She opened her eyes and 
pressed her hands to her temples. 
Her face went tense with fear. "It 
shot . . . hurt — my face. Where?" 

"No time now!" Sahl grunted. 
"Listen to ,me. You've got to get 
control of the ship." 

"The big head . . . the thing . . . 
is it—?" 

"Dead." 

She closed her eyes again and 
moaned. Sahl shook her hard. 
"Alaia! Listen tome!" 

"Sick . . . Water . . ." 

He shook her again, then pulled 
her up to a sitting position. She saw 
the dead creature, and her eyes 
widened. She gasped and seemed to 
recover a little. She stared at the 
control panel and shook her head. 

"That whine!" she gasped. 
"Air!" 

Sahl helped her to her feet. "Far- 
on got the jets idled," he told her 
quickly, "but that's all. You've got 
to figure out the controls." 

She staggered toward the instru- 
ment panel and stared. "I'll never 
be able to read those things. But 
. . ." She looked down at the array 
of switches and studs. "Only two 



variable controls," she muttered. 
"The rest are on-off. I hope this- 
thing is — " She touched a lever 
and bent close to inspect it. "Ball 
and socket mounting. Can push it 
any direction. That means — " She 
pushed it forward slightly. 

"No!" Faron howled. "Look at 
the screen!" 

The cross-ha"irs had split into a 
pair, one set red, the other black. 
The black set rested now below the 
horizon. 

"Don't worry," she muttered. 
"That must be just the aim of our 
nose. I didn't feel a course-change." 

She tugged back slowly on the 
lever. A low drone came from the 
instrument panel. The black cross- 
hairs drifted slowly upward, and 
the planet's horizon swept com- 
pletely off the screen. The scope re- 
vealed only a patch of space. "Must 
be a stern pick-up somewhere." She 
touched one of the switches under 
the scope, then returned it to the 
original position. "Magnification. 
And this one — ■ intensity. And 
this — " The scene on the scope 
changed abruptly and the planet's 
surface appeared again. "That's it. 
Now we're looking back toward the 
tail." 

She turned abruptly to look at 
Faron. '.'How did you get the re- 
actors damped?" 

"Back in the power room. Slipped 
in a couple of rods." 

"Better go slip them back like 
they were." 



HE NODDED and departed si- 
lently. Minutes later, the rock- 
et's purr became a roar again. Alaia 



28 

slowly moved the second control 
and the thunder waned, then grew 
again. The ship lurched clumsily 
as she fumbled with the heading- 
lever, but gradually the planet's 
surface lay directly tailward, and 
they were climbing slowly. The 
whine began to diminish. 

Faron returned from the power 
room to stare over her shoulder. 
"Wonderful!" he murmured. 

"Not so wonderful, maybe," she 
said gloomily. "We don't know 
what the instruments are register- 
ing. One slip and we're finished." 

"Can we make it back?" Sahl 

"Back? To the moon? No!" She 
shook her head emphatically. "No 
way to navigate." 

"What then?" 

"We'll have to get in an orbit, 
let me practice on the controls. 
Then — there's nothing to do but 
try to land it somewhere down 
there. Unless you'd rather stay here 
as a permanent satellite." 

"They'll send other ships up after 
us," Faron said darkly. "They're 
probably watching us right now." 

Sahl stared at the surface re- 
vealed on the screen. "I agree that 
they're watching us. But I don't 
think they'll send pursuit." 

"Why not?" 

"It's my guess that they don't 
have anything to pursue us with. I 
believe this rocket was specially 
constructed for this one task." ! 

Faron snorted contemptuously. 
"If they can build this one, they've 
certainly built others." 

"Why?" 

"Well—" 

"I'm certain they could build all 



WALTER MILLER, JR. 

the ships they wanted to," Sahl con- 
tinued. "And Earthlings could build 
humanoid robots if they wanted to. 
But who wants to? The Eridanians 
have deserted space. They don't 
need to build ships, except for some 
special purpose, like this one." 

"Maybe," Faron admitted. "But 
if we stay here very long they'll 
build one to come after us. If what 
you say is true, they certainly built 
this one in a hurry." 

The biologist nodded, glanced at 
Alaia. "How long will it take?" 

"Somewhere between five min- 
utes and forever," she answered 
curtly. 

"Well, we land as soon as you 
think you can manage it. We'll have 
to be careful about choosing a spot. 
Some place pretty far from a city. 
Let's say — high ground in the twi- 
light zone." 

"Why twilight?" 

"So that if we get down, we 
might try to get away in the dark." 
He paused. "I'm going to look over 
the ship again and try to get some- 
thing out of those crewmert. If 
that's what they are." 



Chapter VI 

HE WAS gone for half an hour, 
during which the ship lurched 
and rocked and spun as Alaia tested 
the controls. He came back looking 
grim, and went to bend over the 
dead Eridanian. He pried open its 
jaw and stared. 

"Want it to say 'ah'?" Faron 
asked sourly. 

"Look," Sahl grunted, pressing 



LET MY PEOPLE GO 



29 



back the creature's lips to expose 
the inside of his mouth. 

"Toothless/ 5 Faron observed, 
"and no tongue. So?" 

"Look again." He inserted his 
finger and pressed something. A 
pair of gleaming white fangs slipped 
slowly into view. "Hollow and re- 
tractile." 

Faron frowned. "Poison sacs?" 

"No. Feeding mechanisms." 

"A blood-feeder!" 

"Not exactly. I found something 
growing on one of the crewmen's 
backs. A parasite vegetable growth, 
I think. It's taken root there — deep 
roots. And there's a pale green 
pulpy sphere on the outside. It had 
fang-marks on it. Seems to be full 
of a milky fluid, but not blood. I'd 
say it's the *ruit of the parasite 
growth. And the fellow's flesh is the 
ground it grows in." 

"And he's still alive?" 

"In a stupor. He's the one curled 
up on the floor. Asleep, or uncon- 
scious." 

"How about the others?" 

"They don't have it. Apparently 
this thing — " He nudged the small 
body. "- — just brought along one 
dinner pail." 

Faron shuddered. "They're 
slaves, then." 

"Maybe. Better look the other 
way," he said, producing a pocket- 
knife. He made a neat incision 
in the throat, and studied for a mo- 
ment. "Breathing tube, no real 
vocal cords. They can't talk, nor 
even make much oral noise." 

"Somebody was talking to us!" 
the chemist protested. - • 

"Yeah, but I think this thing was 
using the saffron fellow as a mouth- 



piece; telepathic control. The hu- 
man — if he is a human — spoke in 
his own language, and the machine 
translated. But the original 
thoughts must have come from 
this." 

Faron looked toward the door 
thoughtfully. "I can't even believe 
those people have a language. They 
act like complete idiots." 

Sahl looked up. "I have an idea 
that's withdrawal shock, rather 
than idiocy. If this little beastie was 
controlling them telepathically, 
they must have gotten some kind 
of jolt when Alaia shot it. And may- 
be they've been controlled so long 
that they've lost their own egos, lost 
their own personality." 

They looked up as the tug of ac- 
celeration decreased suddenly. 

"Okay," Alaia called nervously, 
"I guess it's now or not at all. I'm 
going to start down." 

Sahl turned to watch the planet's 
surface on the screen. It tilted 
again, revealed a horizon as she 
guided the ship so as to resume the 
•process of cancelling out its orbital 
velocity component. 

"I'll have to do it fast," she 
called. "We're too close to the at- 
mosphere. You'd better lie clown — 
or sit." 



THE ROCKETS' thunder grew 
to deafening proportions, and 
Sahl felt his weight tripling under 
the force of the thrust. He sat 
braced against the wall, watched 
Alaia's face sag under the pressure. 
Soon the whine of atmospheric fric- 
tion returned, and grew into a wild 
shriek. He inched away from the 



30 



WALTER MILLER, JR. 



wall as it began to burn his back. 
Faron mopped his face with a 
heavy hand. 

"Hot," he gasped. "Lord, it's 
getting hot!" 

"How's it coming?" Sahl shout- 
ed, but the girl was too tensely ab- 
sorbed to answer. 

After a time the shriek seemed 
to diminish slightly, became a low 
howl, then a muffled drumming, 
scarcely audible above the roar of 
the rockets. The minutes crawled 
slowly past, and gradually the sur- 
face markings on the screen stopped 
their crawl. Their normal weight 
had returned, and the sound of the 
jets ceased to be deafening. 

"How's it coming?" he called 
again. 

This time she answered. "We're 
just about stationary. Sitting on our 
thrust at — oh, somewhere between 
twenty and thirty miles. I think I've 
located the radar-altimeter — by 
watching it crawl back — but I still 
can't read it." 

"Can you tell the zero-mark on 
it?" the chemist called. 

"Yes. But I'm afraid to trust it. 
There's some kind of adjustment on 
the dial." 

"There's a small transparency 
port in the power room," Faron 
called. "Want me to watch it?" 

"Yes. I'll go down at about a 
mile a minute until w.e're a couple 
of miles up. Think you can yell 
when we're at about ten-thousand 
feet?" 

"I'll try," he muttered. "How'll 
you judge our rate of descent?" 

She tapped an instrument dial. 
"This thing seems to be an accelera- 
tion balance. It sits on this center 



mark when the thrust is just right 
to make me feel my normal weight. 
I've been comparing the reading 
with the feel of the thrust. We'll 
start down slow, then keep it on the 
center mark, Warn me if we seem 
to be dropping too fast." 

Faron shook his head, muttered 
pessimistically, and left the cabin. 
The biologist sat watching the 
scope and feeling helpless. Slowly 
the surface markings spread, grew 
larger. The land was rising to meet 
them. 

Faron burst into the cabin again. 
"Better slow it down," he called. 
"We're dropping pretty fast." 

The rockets droned louder for a 
' moment, and the screen markings 
ceased to spread. Alaia risked a 
quick glance at Faront 

"What kind of country down 
there?" 

"Hilly," he said, then glanced at 
the scope and touched it. "This 
place right here looks like a valley. 
Fairly flat." 

She nodded and touched the con- 
trols lightly. The marking crept 
slowly under the crosshairs, then 
stopped. The descent began again. 
Sahl saw that her only yardstick 
of velocity lay in the seeping spread 
of the markings on the scope. She 
occasionally glanced at the accel- 
eration balance, but her eyes turned 
quickly back to the screen. Faron 
had returned to the power room. 



HER HANDS began -flickering 
quickly about the controls as 
the spread became more rapid. She 
muttered through gritted teeth. 
Sahl braced himself and Waited. 



CET my people go 



3i 



Faron was shouting from the 
power room, but the roar made his 
voice unintelligible. 

"See what's the matter with 
him!" she snapped suddenly. "I'll 
hold us right here." The roar in- 
creased slightly as she nudged the 
thrust control, and the spread of- 
the marking slowed to a halt. 

Faron was mopping his face on 
his sleeve as Sahl entered the power 
room. "About to go down in a 
gorge!" he shouted. "She's got to 
move it over some." 

Sahl glanced at the transparent 
port, saw nothing but gravness be- 
yond it. "What's that?" 

"Smoke. Our jets touched off the 
vegetation. We're about a hundred 
yards up. No use watching any 
more. I'll try to guide her in." 

They hurried back to the control 
cabin. Faron traced a finger lightly 
along a dark marking on the scope. 
"Deep cut," he told her. "Move it 
over here." 

The scenery began to crawl. "Say 
when!" she called. 

"Take it slow — all right, now!" 

"Check. Brace yourselves. We're 
going in." 

* Seconds later, a series of muffled 
tearing sounds echoed through the 
ship. Then a settling jar. She killed 
the jets. 

"Down!" gasped Faron, sitting 
up. 

"Watch out!" Alaia screamed 
Suddenly. "We're going over!" 

The room began to tilt, first slow- 
ly, then gathering impetus. Sahl 
scrambled toward the down-going 
wall. A thunderous roar. A bone- 
crushing jolt. A body slammed 
against him hard, and the wind 



went out of him. The room spun 
crazily, and the jolts continued, as 
if they were rolling down a hill. 
His head slapped hard against the 
wall. Awareness faded. 

The jolting had stopped. Appar- 
ently he had blacked out for only 
a few seconds, for Alaia was still 
untangling herself from him when 
he shook the fog away. "Sorry, 
Sahl," she muttered. "I didn't mean 
to use you for a crash pad. You just 
got in the way." 



HE SAT up slowly, found him- 
self sitting on the dead Eridan 
ian, and arose to stand on the 
slightly inclined wall. Faron lay 
groaning in the corner. 

"Nice landing," Sahl breathed, 
and meant it. 

"Faron's hurt!" she gasped, 
bending over him. "His leg! It's 
all—" 

Sahl knelt to take a look. "Brok- 
en," he muttered, then began split- 
ting the fabric of his suit. "Broken 
femur." He shook his head and 
reached for the Eridanian's crystal 
gun. 

"No!" the girl protested, knock- 
ing his hand away. 

He glowered at her. "Rather lis- 
ten to him scream while I splint 
it?" 

"But—" 

"It didn't kill you, did it?" 

"All right, but — if he's uncon- 
scious — he can't—" 

He looked at her sourly. "Can't 
come trotting along with us?" He 
held the gun close to Faron's shoul- 
der, pressed the firing switch, and 
waited for the groans to stop. Then 



32 



WALTER MILLER, iR. 



he brushed away the crystals that 
remained half -imbedded in his skin. 

"Go find me something long and 
straight for a splint," he grunted, 
and began ripping Faron's suit into 
strips. 

She came back after a few min- 
utes, empty-handed. "All I found 
was a long metal rod, but it must 
weigh thirty pounds. He's heavy 
enough as it is." 

He gazed at her quietly. "You 
planning to carry him, Ala?" 

She sucked in a short breath. 
"Why, I—" 

"Get the rod, if you want it 
splinted." 

She hesitated, then went back to 
get it. "We're hanging over the 
edge of a bluff. It's a wonder we 
didn't roll into it," she called. 

"Let's have the rod." 

She gave it to him, then watched 
as he packed one end of it under 
Faron's arm, then bound it to his 
body from the chest down. Gradu- 
ally it seemed to dawn on her that 
Faron wasn't going any place. 

"Pull this tight and tie it when 
the- fracture pops in place," he mut- 
tered, then sat down to stretch the 
limb against the writhing knot of 
muscles. 

There was a dull snapping 
sound, "Tie it!" he grunted. 

Minutes later, Sahl arose pant- 
ing. "It may not be properly set, 
but that'll keep it from compound- 
ing, anyhow. Let's go." 

She shook her head slowly. "I'm 
not going anywhere." 

He frowned sharply. "Listen! It's 
certain that someone spotted our 
landing. It's equally certain that we 
can't move Faron, and that they'll 



get him anyway. Your presence 
won't help him a damn bit." 

"I can't just desert him!" 

"If you don't, you'll be deserting 
a hundred and twenty others." 

"I don't see how — " 

"We came down here to look 
around, get information, and get it 
back to the Ark. I don't know how 
we can accomplish it now, but I 
know we can't do it just sitting here 
waiting to be captured. They're 
probably on their way here now. 
Come on, let's get moving." 

She looked down at Faron and 
bit her lip. "All right, I'll come," 
she said hoarsely. "But Sahl, I hate 
your guts." 



Chapter VII 



THE FIRES still smoldered on 
the low hillside about the ship. 
By their light, he could see that 
they had landed in what appeared 
to be a garden, or an orchard. The 
sun had set, and only a trace of twi- 
light lingered in the west. A faint 
breeze washed the hillside and 
whispered in the foliage of the 
shrub-like trees. The breeze brought 
pleasant odors: a wisp of smoke, 
the smell of moldering leaves, a 
faint perfume from the trees. De- 
spite the danger, they paused a mo- 
ment savoring the feel of mossy 
earth under their feet. 

"Thirteen years," Alaia kept 
murmuring, "thirteen long years." 

The ' "orchard" was cool and 
pleasant, the trees shaped like in- 
verted hearts, with the foliage 
draped from the branches like tas- 



LET MY PEOPLE GO 



33 



sels. They reminded Sahl of weep- 
ing willows, except for their near- 
perfect symmetry. It was indeed a 
garden world — and old, old and 
carefully tended. 

She caught his arm suddenly. 
"Sahl! Lights moving in the sky! 
Up there!" 

He gazed in the direction she 
pointed and saw them. The breeze 
brought the faint drone of engines. 
Circling aircraft. 

He moistened his lips nervously 
and hesitated. "Probably sent to 
spot the rocket. But they can't land 
here, not unless they do it the same 
way you did." 

"Yes, but they'll guide a ground 
party to us." 

He nodded and walked to the 
rim of the gorge. A hundred feet 
down to the rush of water over 
rocks. The moon was rising, and by 
its faint light he saw the dim white- 
ness of a small waterfall. 

"Let's go," he grunted, and be- 
gan trotting toward higher ground, 
following the lip of the cliff a dozen 
yards on their* right. 

"Where to?" she called from be- 
hind. 

"How should I know? Anywhere, 
away from that rocket. We'll stay 
on the crest of the ridge. It seems 
to follow the gorge. Down there 
might be a good place to hide, if 
we have to." 

"This moss is too soft. Sahl, we're 
leaving a clear trail." 

"I know it, but I hope they won't 
find it before morning." 

"Those lights. They're circling 
lower. They've seen the fires." * 

"Yeah. Save your breath for run- 
ning." 



The crest of the ridge steepened 
and angled away from the gorge 
and led them to a steep hill that 
arose on their left. They scrambled 
up a series of rocky ledges to a 
rain-guttered slope that was free of 
the moss. Regular patches of brush 
lay ahead. Alaia pleaded exhaus- 
tion and they paused to rest. 
" "We must have run ten miles," 
she panted. 

"Closer to four, maybe," he mut- 
tered, staring back at the orange 
etching of glowing embers on the 
hillside where they had landed. 

"Sahl, look! Down the gorge to- 
ward the valley!" 

"Uh — yes, lights. A whole swarm 
of them. And they're moving." 
* "Torches?" 

"I don't think so. They— they 
move too fast. And they're too 
white for flame." 

They fell silent for a moment. "I 
don't hear anything. No engines." 

"Too far away, maybe," 

"The wind's right. But— look! 
They're flying. Close to the ground, 
but they're flying." 

"Come on," he muttered, "we'd 
better be moving." 

They climbed again, and as the 
brush thickened a moon-splashed 
cliff loomed ahead. They made for 
it, tearing through the brush and 
stumbling over the rocky ground. 

"That cliff," Sahl muttered- 
"Looks like a mesa up there, or a 
high plateau." 

"What good is it? Why do we 
keep climbing?" 

"To get a view of the land. So 
that if we last through tomorrow, 
we'll see where to go." 



34 



WALTER MILLER, JR. 



SHE TURNED to look back. 
"Sahl! Those lights. They've 
split up back by the rocket." 

He paused to follow her gaze, 
then tugged her on. "Part of them 
coming this way. Hurry!" 

"But where?" she gasped as she 
ran. 

"The cliff's got an overhang. 
We'll get under it." 

"The lights — they wink on and 
off — like signals. And they swarm 
around like wasps." 

"Gome on!" he snapped. "You 
can watch them from under the 
overhang." 

They vsprinted across a clearing, 
then ran along the foot of the cliff 
until they reached a gulley where 
the rock hung like a jaw over the, 
ground. They crawled quickly back 
into the blackest shadows of the re- 
cess and sat panting on the moist 
rocks. 

"Nice place for something big 
and stealthy and hungry to hang ' 
out," she said with a shiver in her 
voice. 

"Maybe. But I doubt if there's 
anything like that left on this 
planet." He paused, and his voice 
changed slightly. "Nothing, that is, 
except us." 

He heard her moisten her lips in 
the darkness, as if to speak, but she 
said nothing. Peering out at the 
night he caught a glimpse of the 
winking lights, momentarily visible 
beyond a dip in the ridge. 

"They must have picked up our 
trail all right," he muttered. "Let's 
hope they lose it where the mossy 
ground ends." 

"What are they?" 

"I don't know but— -they're get- 



ting closer. Listen!" 

"I don't hear . . .". She paused, 
then: "Yes, I do — faintly. It's a 
whirring sound, like wings, like 
quail flying. A whole big covey of 
quail." 

"That's what it is," he whispered. 
"Wings" He crawled closer toward 
the opening and stared. 

"Fireflies. Giant fireflies, Ala — 
only they're probably nothing like 
fireflies except that they glow. Lis- 
ten to those wings! And they light 
up a whole patch of hillside." 

"Coming this way?" 

"They're circling. Must have lost 
us." 

She laughed suddenly. "Fireflies, 
chasing humans. It's funny — " 

"Don't get hysterical, Ala!" 

"It's really funny," she went on. 
"All the quaint little life-forms, out 
to hunt us down. Watch out for the 
rabbits, Sahl ! Beware of the spar- 
row patrol! They work in packs. I 
wonder what the fireflies are lead- 
ing. A band of gophers? A flock of 
snakes?" She laughed again, but 
choked it off in a hiss and a shiver. 

"You're not far from wrong," he 
muttered. "They are leading some- 
thing. There's lots of rustling in the 
brush. But — I think they're heading 
the wrong way." 

"Intelligent fireflies— what next?", 

"Not intelligent, I'd guess. Just 
under control. Like a dog-pack." 

"Under whose control? The little 
fat-heads?" 

"Remotely, I imagine. I wouldn't 
be surprised but what every life- 
form on the planet is controlled. 
The fellow we communicated with 
on the ship said as much. Or hinted 
at it." 



LET MY PEOPLE GO 



35 



She was silent for a moment. 
"Have the lights gone away?" 



HE CRAWLED halfway out in- 
to the open and stared. 
"They're swarming up the cliff, 
about half-a-mile away — up to the^ 
top of the mesa. I guess they think 
we went . . ." 

"What's wrong?" 

"Nothing. I just happened to 
think: if they suspect we took that 
way, then there must be a path up 
the cliff down there — or some rea- 
son why they think we'd want to 
climb it. Both, maybe." 

"So?" 

"So maybe we should, if we get a 
chance." 

"Sahl — I'm too tired to move." 

"Sleep awhile, if you can. I'll 
watch." 

She murmured gratefully, and he 
heard her shifting around on the 
loose rock, seeking a place to stretch 
out. Suddenly she giggled. "Some- 
thing crawled down my back. I — " 
Then she choked out a yelp. "Sahl, 
help me! It stings, and I can't reach 
it." 

With a worried grunt he crawled 
back to where she lay, trying to 
claw at something between her 
shoulder-blades. He slipped his 
hand down the neck of her suit and 
felt along the smooth skin until he 
found it— a rough scaly little disk 
that clung tight to her back. He 
pinched it hard and jerked. She 
whimpered as the thing came free. 
Sahl struck a light and studied it 
briefly — a leathery creature with 
wiry tendrils that moved very slow- 
ly, as if groping for the hold they 



had lost. His face remained expres- 
sionless. 

"What is it?" she asked. 

"Nothing much," he grunted. 

He laid it on a rock and burned 
it. It wasn't much, as it stood — but 
he had seen the mature one with 
the pale green fruit, growing with 
its roots buried deep in the flesh of 
a man. 

"Better sleep up closer to the 
front," he advised. 

The moon rose higher in the star- 
flecked sky, and he*' watched the 
quiet land with its orderly patterns 
of vegetation, and the winking 
lights that circled slowly over it. 
The orderliness implied ownership. 
Here was no primitive forest wait- 
ing for the axe and the plough. 
Here was no place for a colony. 
He glanced at the lurid disk of the 
moon^ and tried to pick out the 
landing site where over a hundred 
humans waited and watched. 

In vain. 

No, they would not turn back, 
would not spend the long years re- 
quired for the journey home. They 
would come down here eventually. 
And when they came, what would 
be their role in the scheme of the 
world? Servants? Or merely an or- 
gan in the biologic corporation the 
native Eridanians were building? 



VOICES FLOATED to him on 
the breeze, voices and the rustle 
of brush. He frowned, brought out 
his gun, and stretched out on his 
stomach to wait. The search was 
continuing. Peering carefully, he 
finally spotted them a hundred 
yards away. A dozen of the saffron- 



36 



WALTER MILLER, JR. 



skinned manlike creatures were 
beating about in the brush and talk- 
ing among themselves. 

The language seemed monosyl- 
labic and primitive, but somehow 
human, designed for the acoustics 
of the human throat. Sahl felt cer- 
tain that they were not locally 
evolved, but rather had descended 
from primitive Earthlings, captured 
by the Eridanian space-wanderers 
during their day of expansion. How 
long ago? Judging by their bone 
structure, he guessed it to be' at 
least fifty thousand years. Muta- 
tions had occurred, of course ; their 
coloring and their loss of hair had 
undoubtedly come about since their 
departure from Earth. Also their 
ability to commune telepathically 
with the Eridanian species. The lat- 
ter specialization seemed to suggest 
forced breeding. 

The searchers were wandering 
closer. They seemed to carry no 
weapons except staves, and their 
only source of light was the moon. 
Since they spoke among themselves, 
he guessed that they were free 
agents rather than telepathically- 
controlled creatures such as the ones 
they had encountered on the ship. 

Sahl retreated deeper into the 
recess. The party reached clear 
ground fifty yards d6wn the cliff, 
then turned and wandered toward 
the place where the' fugitives lay 
hidden. He quickly searched 
through the pockets of Alaia's suit 
and found the crystal gun, which 
seemed preferable to the more 
lethal automatic, in case they were 
tl i covered. 

The party paused occasionally to 
prod under the edge of the cliff 



with their staves. Didn't they realize 
that the Earthlings were armed? 
That numbers were no match for 
guns? 



SUDDENLY HE heard a burst 
of laughter from the group, then 
a sudden shriek — a woman's voice, 
raised in clamoring protest. He 
frowned. There had been no wom- 
an among the searchers. He stole 
closer for a look. A short, thick 
female was struggling to escape 
them, but they pinned her arms 
behind her and held her fast. He 
suddenly heard the screech of an 
infant among the babble of voices. 

One of the men held the baby 
under his arm, and the woman 
fought frantically to get it back. 
Suddenly Sahl understood. The 
men had not been searching for 
the Earthlings, but for the woman 
and her child. The «mall drama 
was breaking up. They dragged the 
howling female down the hill. The 
fellow with the baby set out in 
another direction — along the foot 
of the cliff toward the place where 
the winking lights had swarmed up 
its side. 

He thought for a moment of fol- 
lowing, but decided to wait. There 
were still signs of activity in the 
area about the damaged rocket, and 
certainly the search was continuing, 
probably along the gorge. He was 
puzzled by the incident he had just 
witnessed. It seemed to have an 
ominous significance, but he could 
not interpret it. Did the child's cap- 
ture in some way involve the mo- 
tives of the Eridanian race? Or had 
the woman merely stolen a child 



LET MY PEOPLE GO 



37 



that was not her own? 

He stiffened suddenly, hearing a 
sound in the distance. Had he 
imagined it, or did a voice call his 
name — a booming voice that rolled 
across the hills. It came again, 
swelling louder with a change in 
the breeze. 

"M or gun Sahl. Alaia Dazille!" 

He lay frozen for a moment. A 
giant loudspeaker calling to them. 
Echoes rang and reverberated 
among the hills. Was it Faron, cap- 
tured by the master-creatures, and 
responding to their bidding? But 
the voice seemed mechanical, and 
he remembered the translator unit 
aboard the rocket. Undoubtedly the 
language structure was still set up 
in its memory circuits and record- 
ing units. They had only to feed 
its output into a large amplifier. 

"Welcome! Welcome! Sahl and 
Dazille, Welcome!" 



THE WORD made him shiver. 
Perhaps it resulted from a mal- 
function of the translator. Or per- 
haps it was a trick. He wondered 
how much insight they had gained 
into human psychology. Or were 
they interpreting it in terms of their 
almost sub-human servants with the 
saffron hides? He shook Alaia 
awake, and she sat up muttering 
sleepily. Then she clutched his arm 
as the voice resumed. 9 

"Welcome, wanderers!" A pause 
to let the echoes die. "You are free 
to roam and observe . . . You will 
not be harmed. . ." 

"What's going on?" Alaia whisp- 
ered in fright. 

"Shhh! Listen!" 



**. . . as long as you harm no one 
else . . . We shall wait until you 
feel the need to cooperate with us 
. . . Meanwhile, lest you think of 
violence, remember that we hold 
Faron Qun a hostage." 

The voice fell silent. The echoes 
died. 

"Free to roam!" Alaia repeated. 
"Did we misjudge them?" 

"I hadn't realized that we'd 
made a judgement," he murmured 
sourly. 

"Then why run? Why hide?" 

"Because we didn't know how 
they'd react to the seizure of their 
rocket, and to your killing the one 
on board. We still don't know." 

"I've got ' the feeling we're 
trapped," she murmured. 

• "We are. We can't contact the 
Ark or get back to it without their 
help. We don't dare trust them. 
And I can't see how they dare trust 
us. To them, we're a couple of 
wolves — wandering in their flocks." 

"They've" got Faron," she re- 
minded him. 

He hesitated, then spoke softly: 
"Listen, Ala- — the three of us are 
expendable. We have to be, for the 
hope of the colony. If you don't 
agree, then we'd better part com- 
pany — and you can head for the 
nearest city." 

"I — I know, Sahl. Of course 
we're expendable, but — " 

"Then we can't think of Faron 
as a debit. If he has to be spent, 
then we'll spend him. If you can't 
agree, you'd better go. If you feel 
he's a club over your head, then 
you'd better go look for our hosts — 
and 'cooperate', as they put it." 

"I — " She started to speak, but 



38 



WALTER MILLER, JR. 



fell silent. Her breathing became 
labored. "I hate you." Her voice 
was violent. 

"That's beside the point," he said 
coldly. "It doesn't give an answer." 

Another silence, then : "All right. 
All right." 

He nodded in the darkness. "I 
doubt if they'll harm him, no mat- 
ter what we do." 

"Why not?" 

"They want us for something. 
And I have an idea what it is. No, 
don't ask me yet — because I'm far 
from being certain, and I don't 
want us to act on guesswork." 



Chapter VIII 



DAWN CAME, and'h& arose 
with a start, having fallen asleep 
during the night. He touched 
Alaia's arm and she stirred, then 
sat up to rub drowsy eyes. He 
crawled to the opening and stared 
across the hilltops and beyond them 
toward a plain. The orange sun 
spread a lurid light over the land- 
scape, fully revealing its features 
to them for the first time. 

A moss-draped world, hoary 
with age. No -vivid colors splashed 
its gray-stained spread of vegeta- 
tion, no riotous growth, nor any 
tangle of plants seekiag sunlight in 
a frantic competition. It was a re- 
strained world of dusty greens, drab 
browns, silvery grays. The hills and 
tin' valley were covered with evenly 
sp.H'cd trees, and the moss blanket 
lay soft over the ground between. 
]'( ill :i j is ten miles away on the plain 
m si lid a patch of white buildings. 



He looked further and saw others 
like them — small villages scattered 
across the valley nestled beside the 
creeks in nests of trees. And the 
inhabitants? 

"It looks like a painting," Alaia 
murmured beside him. 

"It is," he grunted, "but the pig- 
ment is protoplasm. Nature's been 
changed into an art-form — or a 
system of slavery, depending on how 
you look at it, and from which side 
of the fence." 

"Reminds me of pictures I've 
seen of Japanese landscapes." 

"Yeah, Earth might look like this 
someday. With one difference." 

"What's that?" 

"It'll belong to Man." 

"And here?" 

"We'll just fit in somewhere. Or 
else we won't fit in at all. We won't 
be at the top." 

"Maybe someday — " 
i "No, Ala. If this is as carefully 
a tailored biologic system as I think, 
it's designed to serve one species — 
the one that developed it. Thinking 
that Man could supplant the de- 
signers of it is like expecting a 
whale's brain to function in the 
body of an elephant." 

"What hope is there, then?" 

"That maybe we can live here as 
predators — or at least as non-par-, 
ticipants. We brought tons of seeds 
from Earthplants, and the small 
animals, of course. If we could get 
established on an island continent 
— " He stopped suddenly. 

"What's wrong?" 

"Seeds," he muttered. "Seeds. 
Vegetables of course, but also — clo- 
ver and Johnson grass, oaks and 
pecans and pines, even sagebrush 



LET MY PEOPLE GO 



39 



and cactus. Not to mention the rab- 
bits and white rats." 

"I don't understand." 

"Never mind, let's just look 
around. There's np one in sight." 



THEY SLIPPED from the recess 
under the cliff face and paused 
for a moment. A few winged 
creatures circled lazily in the sky. 
A tendril that grew from a fissure 
in the rock seemed to sense their 
presence, and began curling back 
away from them at perhaps an inch 
a minute. A ball of fur hung in a 
nearby shrub, dangling by a single 
tentacle that was coiled about a 
branch. It opened a single eye and 
blinked at them. Then it snaked 
out another tentacle, caught at a 
neighboring shrub, and began 
swinging away — hand over hand. 

Alaia shuddered. "I'm starving, 
but what'll we eat?" 

He brought out a single stick of 
protein dehydrate and broke it in 
half. "We'll have to wait and see 
what the saffrons eat. We don't 
dare experiment. Come on. Let's 
walk." 

They hurried along the foot of 
the cliff toward the place where 
the flying lights had ascended. They 
cast nervous glances toward the 
hills, and all about them. 

"I keep feeling like something's 
watching us," she breathed. 

"It's possible," he grunted. "That 
fur ball with one eye, for instance. 
Or the trees. The birds. Which crea- 
tures are semi-intelligent? Which 
communicate among themselves, or 
with the dominant race? We don't 
have a way of knowing." 



"Sahl, what are we looking for? 
It seems so hopeless?" 

"We're looking for weak spots, 
for sensitive points. There's one 
thing about an integrated system, a 
system of interdependencies : if 
some key member of it gets out of 
whack, the whole thing goes to pot* 
Like mechanical civilization, for in- 
stance; deny it any one of a dozen 
key materials and it starts falling 
to pieces." 

"Even if we found it, how 
could we do anything about it?" 

He chuckled grimly. "We won't 
— in anything less than a lifetime. 
You didn't expect anything else, 
did you?" 

She shook her head. "I didn't ex- 
pect it to be easy, no." She paused, 
staring ahead. "What's that up 
there, where the rock juts out?" 

"It's — " they moved ahead a few 
paces. " — a ladder, I think. Iron 
rungs, set in Ihe rock." His eyes 
followed them up, but the face of 
the cliff sloped back out of sight. 

He trotted out toward the brush, 
seeking a better vantage point. He 
stood there for a time, gazing at 
the clifftop two hundred feet above 
them. 

"What is it?" she called in a low 
voice. 

"A wall," he answered. "A high 
wall along the top of the cliff." He 
looked around quickly, as if fearing 
an eavesdropper, then called, 
"Come on out here." 

As she approached, he handed 
her the gun. "I'm going to climb 
it, Ala. Cover me. I want a look 
at what's on the mesa." 

She took the gun and made a 
wry mouth. "You'll be a perfect 



40 



WALTER MILLER, JR. 



target up there whether I cover 
you or not." 

He nodded. "I know — but I'm 
beginning to believe what they said, 
about leaving us free to roam 
awhile. Surely they could have 
taken us before now if they wanted 
to." 



HE STRODE to the cliff and 
began climbing slowly. But the 
rungs seemed to be abeut three and 
a half feet apart, making the climb 
something of a struggle. Standing 
on the first rung, and clutching the 
second at the level of his waist, he 
could just comfortably reach the 
third. A person of less than adult 
stature could not have climbed the 
ladder. Why the wide spacing, he 
wondered? 

Halfway up, he froze. The loud- 
speaker had thundered a single 
word from over the hills: "Wait!" 
And the echoes said, "wait . . . 
wait. . . ait. . ." 

He hung there motionless for a 
moment, listening. A perfect target 
indeed! A helpless speck on the 
crag. They wouldn't even have to 
inflict a lethal wound. If he were 
winged, the drop to the rocks would 
kill him. 

"If we meant to destroy you," 
boomed the voice, "now would be 
the time." 

He waited. 

"Wouldn't it?" demanded the 
smug watchers. 

He gingerly went back down one 
rung. 

"But you are free to continue 
upward, or to descend, as you 
choose." 



A moment of indecision. He 
looked back at Alaia. She stood very 
still, eyes sweeping along the cliff- 
top. He set his jaw and began 
climbing again. 

"Do not molest the young ones," 
warned the distant voice, "nor 
their nurses." 4 

The warning made him catch hi? 
breath. Young ones? Were they let- 
ting him wander into a place where 
the Eridanians spawned their 
young? If so, he decided that they 
were making a serious mistake. 

But as he continued the climb, 
a faint babble of voices reached his , 
ears — childish shrieks and laughter 
and gibberish. Human voices, or 
those of the saffron primates. 

He scrambled up the last step 
and stood in a narrow pathway 
that ran along the eight-foot wall, 
overhung here and there by the 
drapery of foliage. He stood on a 
rock, leaped for a hand-hold, and 
pulled himself up. He looked over 
into what seemed to be a shady 
garden or park. He caught a 
glimpse of two orange-tinted chil- 
dren toddling across the moss-cov- 
ered turf. They vanished among the 
trees, but he heard the wailing of 
infants, and the shouting of the 
young. Puzzled, he sat on the wall 
and beckoned to Alaia. She came 
forward and labored through the 
same as he had. 



HE STIFFENED, suddenly sens- 
ing the reason for the wide 
spacing: so that the children could 
not escape. He looked quickly back 
toward the villages on the plain, 
remembered the incident of the 



LET MY PEOPLE GO 



41 



woman and her child. The search- 
ers had led her back in the general 
direction of the villages, but they 
had obviously taken the child up 
here. Why? 

Alaia's frightened face came into 
view, "I never felt so helpless," she 
gasped as he helped her up to the 
top of the wall. 

She regained her breath and lis- 
tened to the sounds in the park. 
"Children. Lots of them. What is 
this?" 

"Let's find out." He leaped down 
to the mossy turf and caught her 
arm as she followed. 

They moved a few yards deeper 
into the trees, then stopped sud- 
denly. A buxom saffron female lay 
nude on the soft moss, sprawled 
listlessly on her back with her eyes 
closed. Two toddlers nursed hungri- 
ly at her large breasts. One looked 
up to peer at the intruders with 
his large brown eyes, but did not 
interrupt his meal. 

They moved quietly on through 
the cool shade, encountered several 
similar scenes. "Wet nurses," he 
breathed. 

"Not mothers?" 

"Doubt it. Saw one little fellow 
trade nannies back there." 

Occasionally one of the nurses 
moved listlessly to gaze at them 
with empty eyes, only to fall back 
lazily to a more comfortable posi- 
tion without showing any real curi- 
osity. 

"It's horrible!" Alaia shuddered. 
"They're all idiots." 

"Highly specialized breeding, 
probably. I imagine they're a dis- 
tinct sub-species. Contented cattle, 
as opposed to the yoke oxen." 



She murmured a protest. They 
moved on. The park was a garden 
spot, overgrown with fruit-bearing . 
trees and vines. Alaia plucked a 
pulpy, pink-skinned fruit, but he 
caught her hand on its way to her 
mouth. 

"It .must be all right," she said. 
"I saw a nurse eating one." 

He hesitated, then let her take 
a bite. "Good!" she smiled. 

"I'll wait, thanks. If you put on 
a blank look and start nursing 
babies, then I'll know." 

She sputtered and spat and tossed 
the rest of it away. "Go to hell!" 
she snapped, reddening furiously. 

They came to a low wall and 
looked over it into another section 
of the nursery park. There were 
children of a higher age group, but \ 
no wet nurses. He caught sight of 
a saffron adult wandering among 
the trees — a man. 

"Two to three-year-olds, Sahl. 
What is this place?" 

"Stockyard, I think. Come on, 
let's see the whole thing." 



Chapter IX 



THE MESA proved to include 
about five square miles of land, 
and Sahl estimated that the park 
contained approximately four thou- 
sand children, ranging in age from 
a few weeks to eight years. No. 
one molested them as they wan- 
dered, although the cold, objective 
stares of the supervisors made him 
feel somehow that they were con- 
trol units of Eridanian masters. In- 
deed, the older children themselves 



42 



WALTER MILLER, JR. 



seemed occasionally to move and 
gaze with a solemnity that was 
somehow unchildlike. He saw one 
incident that he could only inter- 
pret as a release-shock phenome- 
non. 

The child, an eight-year-old, 
stood gravely by the wall at the 
far end of the enclosure, hands 
folded behind his back, feet spread 
slightly, head erect. He watched 
them with adult-seeing eyes, quietly 
observing a disinterested and inter- 
pretive silence. As Sahl crouched 
and leaped to pluck a fruit, the 
child's eyes seemed to measure the 
height of the jump, and he nodded 
slightly to himself. After they had 
passed, Sahl glanced back. The 
child had slumped to the ground, 
was clutching his head in his hands 
and moaning. A look of idiocy had 
spread across his face. The biologist 
remembered the reaction of the 
ship's crew to the death of the 
master, and he pursed his lips 
thoughtfully. 

Alaia touched his arm suddenly. 
"Look— a stone building, there in 
the trees. It's covered with vines." 

"First one we've seen," he *mr- 
mured, coming to a halt. "Unless 
you count the unwalled rain-shel- 
ters. Let's have a closer look." 

They wandered closer, but Sahl 
suddenly drew his gun and stif- 
fened. 

"What's wrong? What do you 
see?" 

"Notice the door. Five feet tall, 
no more. Not built for human con- 
venience." 

"Look what's hanging over it." 

"One of the fur balls, like the 
thing we saw in the brush." 



THEY ADVANCED slowly. 
The creature hung by a ten- 
tacle from a peg set in the wall. 
The other tentacle was coiled about 
a half devoured fruit that it had 
plucked from the vines. The single 
eye surveyed their approach un- 
winkingly. Suddenly it set the fruit 
on a small ledge over the door and 
thrust the tentacle through a small 
hole in the wall just beneath the 
ledge. The tentacle seemed to 
writhe for a moment, then with- 
drew and picked up the fruit again. 

"Sahl, I heard a chime ring just 
then. Inside the building." 

"So did I. The little fellow up 
there is apparently a doorman." 

She stared at it for a moment. "It 
might be quaint, if I weren't so 
scared." 

"Quaint? Mmmm — which is 
more advanced: a photoelectric 
warning rig, or a biomechanism 
whose only purpose in life is to do 
a task like that?" 

"Rhetorical question. Shall we 
try the door." 

"Why? It looks like it's opening 
for us." 

They stopped a few feet away, 
guns ready, gazing into what ap- 
peared to be an empty anteroom. 

"What opened it?" 

"We'll find out." 

Sahl thrust his head gingerly up- 
side, glanced around quickly, then 
withdrew it. "Another fur ball," 
he muttered, "hanging on the in- - 
side wall. Some system." 

"You are invited to enter," called 
a voice from inside the building. 

"Sahl, there's one of them in 
there!" 

"Maybe." He hesitated for a long 



LET MY PEOPLE GO 



43 



moment, then shrugged. "We might 
as well go in, but keep that crystal- 
gun ready." 

They stepped cautiously into the 
anteroom. The door swung slowly 
closed behind them. Light came 
from openings along the top of the 
wall. The ceiling nearly brushed 
the top of Sahl's head, touched 
when he stood on tiptoe. They 
faced an opposing door, but it re- 
mained closed. Briefly, he won- 
dered if they had walked into a 
trap. 

"If you will replace your weapons 
in your clothing;, we shall permit 
you to pass. We cannot trust your 
impulsiveness." 

"They are in there," he conceded 
to Alaia. 

"Well, what next?" 

He paused, then spoke to the 
voice. "I'll put my automatic away, 
but we won't give up the an- 
aesthetic weapon." 

The voice hesitated, then : 
"Agreed. But I advise you against 
its use." 



A TENTACLE opened the door 
for them, and they approached 
slowly. Another room beyond it, 
this one richly furnished. The Eri- 
danian sat on a softly padded 
couch, facing them with a calm, 
piercing gaze. Two eight-year-olds 
flanked him. Their weapons, and 
their coldly adult expressions, told 
Sahl that they were telecontrolled 
by the Eridanian. All remained mo- 
tionless for a few seconds, and Sahl's 
eyes quickly swept the room. A 
young girl lay sleeping on a pallet, 
one of the parasite creatures rooted 



in her back. Twisted plants with fat 
protuberances grew in urns at each 
end of the Eridanian's couch. Simi- 
lar parasites, with their pale- 
skinned fruit, grew tangled with the 
plants rooted in the protuberances. 
Sahl suppressed an exclamation of 
disgust. 

"Our feeding method disturbs 
you," came the voice from an open- 
ing in the wall behind the Eridan- 
ian's couch. "The process is biolog- 
ically favorable, however. There are 
virtually no waste products in the 
milk of the wretr; hence, our diges- 
tive organs are much simpler and 
less subject to disturbance than 
your own. Your disgust is a primi- 
tive reaction." 

"I wasn't aware than I had ex- 
pressed it," he growled. 

"I perceive it," said the Eridan- 
ian, through the mechanical voice. 
"You have not been bred for tele- 
pathetic aptitude, nor conditioned 
for it, but I can easily perceive your 
overall semantic state." 

Sahl looked around again. "How 
did you get the translator up here 
without us noticing it?" 

"We did not. It was taken to the 
nearest city. A . . . uh . . . saffron 
lies in the next room, responding 
in his own language to my state- 
ments. His voice is being transmit- 
ted to the city by radio and fed into 
the translator. The translation is re- 
broadcast to this station. That is 
what you hear. The method seems 
complicated, but within a few days 
we shall have conditioned our saf- 
frons — several of them — to speak 
your tongue." 

Sahl frowned thoughtfully."What 
frequencies — " 



44 



WALTER MILLER, JR, 



The creature on the couch 
seemed to purr, and Sahl somehow 
felt that it was a chuckle. 

"You ask that, wondering if the 
signals are being picked up by your 
ship on our moon. That is very 
probable. We established communi- 
cation with Wolek Parn as soon as 
we picked up the translator with its 
language-content. We have nothing 
to hide. I might mention that your 
leader seemed more disturbed by 
the death of our emissary than we 
have been." 

"You aren't disturbed?" Sahl 
asked coldly. 

"It was unfortunate," the crea- 
ture conceded, "but we do not 
share your view of death. When a 
Piszjil — as the sub-species calls us 
— dies, he does not die in the same 
sense that you would understand. 
Because of telepathetic resonance 
conditions, the Piszjil focus of con- 
sciousness is not sharply limited to 
a single individual, but is to a cer- 
tain extent distributed." 

"A racial consciousness?" 

"Not quite. I have a distinct per- 
sonality, and the body you see is its 
central point. But It extends also to 
all of my kind within approximately 
a ten-mile radius. If you were to 
destroy me, my memories and 
thought-patterns and feelings would 
still live in the others. We are born 
as distinct individuals, you see, but 
as we grow older we tiecome com- 
posite personalities, and even cen- 
turies after, death, some trace of 
awareness remains in others of our 
kind. Eventually, for all practical 
purposes, the individual ego dies 
out, or is subsumed by others — but 
there is no sharply defined death." 



ALAIA MOVED a step closer 
and stared down at the small 
man-thing. The two guards swung 
their weapons toward her quietly. 
"For what are you going to use 
these children here on the mesa?" 
she demanded in a voice full of re- 
strained hate. 

The Piszjil blinked at her once 
with semi-transparent lids that cov- 
ered yellow eyes with black slits for 
pupils. He drew a robe of pale 
green gauze more closely about his 
shoulders and studied her quietly 
before speaking. 

"If your feelings become overt;" 
he warned, "I shall have to anaes- 
thetize you. Your question is an 
aggressive demand, but I shall an- 
swer nevertheless. The children are 
brought here at birth from the free 
villages on the plain — " 

"Free?" Sahl interrupted. 

"Yes. Theirs is a folk society, and 
quite fixed in cultural form. We do 
not interfere with their lives, except 
to levy a certain percentage of the 
birth rate, which is quite high. The 
percentage of males we take is such 
that the male-female ratio in the 
adult population of the villages re- 
mains one to seven." 

"Seven wives apiece, eh?" 

The Piszjil paused. "Their mat- 
ing customs are rather free, but it 
works out about like that, usually.' 
We make an occasional census, 
and it varies only slightly from year 
to year. They bring the children to 
us of their own accord. It is a re- 
ligious ceremony for them, since 
they attach a sacredness to our race. 
The mother frequently objects, but 
the children that they keep are 
raised communally, and she soon 



LET MY PEOPLE GO 



45 



transfers her affection to others. 
The priests bring our levy to us 
here at regular intervals." 

"You haven't answered my ques- 
tion!" Alaia snapped. 

The Piszjil ignored her, and con- 
tinued : "You have seen the park, 
but have not understood its signifi- 
cance. This building is the center of 
influence. There are other rooms 
where Tutors sit in trance, contin- 
ually exerting an effort to establish 
liaison with the growing children. 
It is established gradually at first, 
then reaches a sudden strongness of 
response at about eight years. When 
the liaison is perfectly achieved — if 
it is — the children are ready to 
leave the park." 

"And if it isn't achieved?" 

"There are failures, of course," 
said the Piszjil, gesturing with a 
fragile hand toward the girl who 
slept on the pallet, with the parasite 
rooted in her back. "But they are 
useful. The wretr's milk differs ac- 
cording to the nature of the host. 
Some hosts are vegetable, some ani- 
mal. It provides a variety of diet — " 

"Beast!" A sudden scream of 
rage from Alaia. 

Sahl caught at her arms to re- 
strain her, but she savagely tore her- 
self free and darted toward the 
Piszjil' s couch with obviously mur- 
derous intent. The weapons of the 
child-guards coughed together- She 
staggered a few steps, then 
crumpled with a sob at the foot of 
the couch. 

Sahl had crouched and drawn 
his automatic. The child-guards 
kept their weapons trained on him, 
but did not fire. The Piszjil watched 
him without change of expression. 



"In our cooperative world," it 
said slowly, "we have found lethal 
weapons unnecessary for many 
thousands of years. We are certain- 
ly capable of manufacturing them 
in a very short time, however." 

The toneless voice seemed to con- 
tain a threat. Sahl straightened 
quietly and lowered the weapon, 
but kept it in hand. His scalp was 
bristling, and he fought an urge to 
kill the thing immediately. 

"In fact," the Piszjil continued, 
"since the coming of your ship, we 
have assembled three rockets, well- 
armed and capable of destroying 
your Ark. Modify your behavior ac- 
cordingly." 



Chapter X 



THE CONFERENCE continued, 
almost as if there had been no 
interruption. Alaia lay unconscious 
before the creature's couch, and 
Sahl watched her breathing. Her 
presence had become a handicap, 
for he could neither run nor fight 
as long as she lay helpless. 

He remembered his own words 
about the possibility of spending 
Faron, and suddenly wondered if 
they had not sprung from an un- 
conscious wish to see the chemist 
dead. He realized vaguely that he 
was attracted to Alaia, who was 
obviously devoted to Faron. 

"We inform you of conditions as 
they exist, "you see," the Piszjil was 
saying. "Understandably, your peo- 
ple will be horrified for a time. On 
the other hand, you must under- 
stand our position. Our ancestors 



46 

brought specimens of the highest 
life-form on your planet at the 
time." It gestured toward the child- 
guards. "You have" a common an- 
cestry with them, but at the time of 
capture they were scarcely more 
than apes. Their language consisted 
of perhaps two hundred words. 
They used fire when they*found it; 
clubs and levers and sharp sticks 
their only tools. 

"To us, they were only animals, 
potentially useful. We bred them 
selectively, weeding out the fero- 
cious, saving the placid, the clever, 
the telepathically apt. The hair- 
lessness was a concession to the 
beauty-standards of our more ego- 
centric ancestors. Look at them, 
Morgun Sahl. Your rather distant 
cousins — human, I think, but dif- 
ferent in that they lack your ag- 
gressiveness and egotism. Their de- 
velopment has paralleled your own 
in some respects, in others it has 
differed. They belong to us now, by 
their own wish. Does it still hor- 
rify you?" 

Sahl remained silent, knowing 
that the Piszjil could feel the flood 
of suppressed anger about him. 

"As for this park," the creature 
went on, "we regard it as philan- 
thropic. Our own young reach ma- 
turity in similar gardens on other 
tablelands. That should convey to 
you that we do not see our relation- 
ship with the sub-species as one of 
ruthless exploitation." 

Be kind to your Jog, Sahl thought 
bitterly, then stared at the Piszjil 
with sudden interest. "You are 
mammals?" he asked. 

The yellow eyes narrowed slight- 
ly, and the Piszjil paused, as if sens- 



WALTER MILLER, JR. 

ing Sahl's shift in mood from frus- 
trated anger to cautious interest. 

"No, we oviposit our young — in 
a symbiotic relationship with an- 
other species." 

"I don't understand." 



THE MAN-THING hesitated, 
then lifted a slender arm, closed 
its eyes, and seemed to be in com- 
munication with some unseen per- 
son. A shutter clicked behind him, 
and a picture flashed into projec- 
tion on the wall over the couch. It 
revealed a short, waddling creature 
with fat legs and a small head and 
a fat spherical body. Somehow, it 
reminded Sahl of a plucked chick- 
en. 

"A drulrul," the Piszjil said. "An 
egg-bearer. After fertilization, our 
eggs are transferred to these crea- 
tures to await birth." It paused to 
purr amusement. "An advantageous 
system for the females of our race." 

"Yeah. Complete emancipation 
for women. I know some people 
who'd think it a great idea." 

The scene shifted slowly, scan- 
ning over a waddling herd of the 
egg-carriers, then backing away for 
a view of the whole mesa. It ap- 
peared similar to the garden of 
children, except that a slender py- 
lon arose in the center, marking it 
for what it was. The projection 
vanished suddenly. 

"We have nothing to withhold, 
you see," the creature said. "Your 
species is intelligent enough to find 
out for itself eventually. So we will 
answer your questions honestly." 

"Then suppose you tell us what 
you intend to do about our colony." 



LET MY PEOPLE GO 



47 



"Certainly. You will be permitted 
to land, but your spacecraft will be 
impounded. You will not be 
harmed, but you will submit to a 
period of indoctrination and com- 
fortable detention. Then, everyone 
who is willing to cooperate will be 
allowed to go free." 

"To do as we wish?" 

"Yes." 

"Will we be permitted to estab- 
lish the colony in a geographically 
isolated area — such as an island 
group?" 

There was a long silence. The 
Piszjil at first seemed to be reluctant 
to speak. His lids fell closed, and he 
communicated with another for a 
time. At last he looked up. 

"We insist on assigning the areas 
ourselves. We will have you trans- 
ported to them, of course. After- 
wards, however, you may leave 
those places if you choose." 



SAHL MUSED over the plural 
for a moment. Obviously they 
meant to break the colony up into 
groups. How small? 

"What kind of places will they 
be?" 

Again the Piszjil hesitated. "Your 
ignorance of our life-forms would 
permit you to survive nowhere ex- 
cept in the free villages of the sub- 
species. Naturally, however, we 
cannot inflict your whole group on 
a single native village." 

A shred of suspicion flickered in 
his mind. "How many sub-groups?" 

Silence. Sahl asked the question 
again. 

"A large number. One couple to 
a village, perhaps." 



"Neighboring villages?" 

"Randomly selected. But as I 
said, if you are not content you may 
leave, after you have gained enough 
knowledge to survive. You may re- 
group again, if you wish." 

"Uh-huh. And what kind of 
transportation for the regrouping?" 

"Such as they have in the vil- 
lages. 

"Aircraft? Surface vehicles?" 

"The latter.'"' 

"Powered by?" 

"The villages have no technol- 
ogy. But the system of using do- 
mesticated life-forms is highly de- 
veloped." 

"The equivalent of horse-drawn 
vehicles, in other words." 

The creature's mouth flickered 
open for^ an instant, revealing the 
retracted fangs. A grimace of irrita- 
tion? he wondered. 

"And what is the total land area 
over which these free villages are 
distributed?" 

"About—" The Piszjil stopped 
suddenly, eyes narrowing. "The di- 
rection of your questioning becomes 
obvious. Perhaps, we underestimated 
your cleverness. Very well, I'll give 
you the answer to what you want 
to know, before you ask it: We re- 
gard it as probable that your col- 
ony will not reassemble, once it is 
dispersed. But after a few genera- 
tions, of course, a number of them 
will spring up." 

"That wasn't to be my last ques- 
tion," Sahl growled. 

The Piszjil leaned forward slight- 
ly, eyes glowing. "Very well. Then 
ask it." 

"I'll state it instead!" he snapped. 
"A simple knowledge of our Ian- 



48 



WALTER MILLER, JR. 



guage, and the translator's ability 
to handle it, indicates that you ac- 
quired knowledge of the semantic 
content of our words when you ex- 
tracted the words from us. Other- 
Wise, the translator could only sup- 
ply literal word-exchanges. Ergo: 
you must know the semantic con- 
tent of the word 'incest,' know it's 
taboo." 

"Go on." 

"You know that if you settle one 
couple in a village, the children will 
be likely to shun brother-sister mar- 
riages, at least as long as the par- 
ents are alive. You know that they 
would grow up among the natives 
and probably regard them as the 
'norm', since our children would be 
outnumbered. It is inevitable that 
those children would merge into 
the native culture, inter-marry, Ipse 
interest in things outside the settle- 
ment. In a couple of generations 
you would have the hybrids that 
you apparently want, and they 
would respect you just as the na- 
tives do — as their demi-gods. You 
could then transplant them — the 
hybrids — to isolated colonies and do 
with them as you saw fit. And that 
would be?" 



HE WAITED for an answer. The 
man-thing inclined its head 
slightly toward him, and purred 
softly. "A logical analysis of our 
motives, Morgun Sahl. We respect 
the abilities of your young race. 
Your abilities make you both valu- 
;il>le and a threat to us." He ges- 
tured toward the saffron children 
.igain. "Our selective breeding de- 
veloped a certain amount of intelli- 



gence in them. But nature, using 
the same raw material, apparently 
did a better job— in your people. 
We think that a hybrid species, 
combining the docility with higher 
intelligence and initiative, would be 
of more use to us, you see. In per- 
forming difficult tasks, these folk 
require constant telepathic control. 
We think an increase in intelligence 
would relieve us of some of the 
burdens of constant supervision." 

Sahl laughed humorlessly. "One 
creature supplies you with food. 
Another carries your young. An- 
other opens your doors and rings 
your bells. Others do your labor. 
Don't you realize that you're head- 
ing toward complete dependence? 
Parasitism, when your descendants 
will be utterly worthless." 

"The symbiosis is beneficial to all 
concerned," the Piszjil said stiffly. 
"The sub-species benefit by direc- 
tion, which we supply." 

The biologist shook his head. "We 
won't accept. The colony will make 
the trip back to Earth rather than 
agree." 

"I spoke of the weapons we 
built," warned the Piszjil. "We will 
destroy you rather than let you 
leave. Your race is beginning a 
space expansion. We cannot let you 
carry back knowledge of our world 
to your home." 

"Then you'll have to destroy us!" 
the biologist said harshly. 

A purr. "But one of your num- 
bers has already accepted." 

"Faron Qun!" he gasped. "I 
don't believe it!" 

"You'll see him soon. And, of 
course, we have the female here." 
He gestured toward the girl on the 



LET. MY PEOPLE GO 



49 



floor. "And you as well. A. small be- 
ginning, perhaps, but if we have to 
destroy the ship . . ." He seemed 
to shrug. 

Sahl's face went expressionless. 
"We're prisoners? You said — " 

A long, quavering purr — and the 
creature's lips spread in what could 
only be the equivalent of mocking 
laughter. 



SAHL LIFTED the automatic 
and shot it through the brain- 
case. It looked startled, and its fangs 
flicked out full length. He shot it 
again in the belly. The child-guards 
went into shock. One of them 
shrieked. 

A weapon coughed behind him, 
and crystals stung his neck. His fi- 
nal impression of his surroundings 
was a blurred perception of the 
couch's motion. It was bleeding 
where the bullet had entered it 
after passing through the master's 
body. It lifted a small, rodent-like 
head which had been retracted, tur- 
tle-fashion. It squealed with pain 
and started staggering toward Sahl 
on short thick legs. Dimly, he saw 
that it meant to attack him. 

But it was^ badly wounded. It 
managed to collapse on top of him, 
then died. The breath, and the 
awareness, went out of him. 



Chapter XI 

HELLO, SAHL. Isn't it won- 
derful?" 
"Who is this? Who's talking? I 
can't see you." 



"Of course you can't. We're talk- 
ing by wire. This is Faron or, as my 
wives call me, Faroon. Isn't it beau- 
tiful here?" 

"What are you talking about?" 
Sahl growled weakly as he lay on 
something soft and stared at a blue- 
lighted ceiling. 

The chemist laughed heartily. 
"The planet! The scenery! The 
people! And— the Piszjil!" He 
paused, and his voice went rever- 
ent. "Yes, especially the Piszjil!" 

"What's wrong with you?" The 
biologist trembled with anger. "You 
crazy or something? Where's Alaia? 
Where are you? And how did I get 
here?" 

"Don't you know?" Faron called 
enthusiastically. "Aren't you aware? 
Oh, but they'll help you be aware, 
really aware. Of purpose, Sahl ! Of 
high purpose!" 

"Yeah?" , 

"Yes! I'm in a village, Sahl! A 
dozen beautiful wives! Wonderful, 
wonderful, everything's wonder- 
ful!" 

"That's nice." He hesitated, feel- 
ing something tie a knot in his 
stomach. "Where's Alaia?" 

"Who?" 

"Alaia, Alaia!" he barked. "A-L- 
A-I-A. Where is she? What's wrong? 
Have you completely lost your 
mind?" 

"Who?" Faron's voice was baf- 
fled. 

Sahl shivered violently. "The girl 
you were probably going to marry, 
you maniac! What's wrong with 
you?" 

"Nothing! Nothing ever!" The 
chemist giggled. "Marry? I'm mar- 
ried a dozen times." 



50 

Sahl licked his lips, found himself 
panting. "Faron! Are you drugged? 
Doped? Or just insane? What day 
is it? Is the Ark all right?" 

There was a long pause, then : "I 
think it's you that's out of your 
head, Sahl. Ark? What do you 
mean by 'Ark'? Noah's Ark? Arc of 
a circle? Say — you give me the 
creeps! So long, fellow!" 

A sharp click. 

"Hello! Hello!" he bellowed.^ 

"Hello!" said quite another voice, 
one that was in the room. 

He rolled his head and stared at 
a saffron servant who sat impassive- 
ly in the corner, arms folded across 
his chest, eyes closed. Automaton, 
he realized, a control unit. 

"Well?" he demanded. 

"I am the Piszjil, Fyff, semanti- 
cist and psycho-logician. I am not 
in the room with you; no need to 
look." 

"What's going on?" 

"Your memory has been blanked 
for the past eight days. How do you 
feel?" 

"Weak." 

"A result of the conditioning 
process, perhaps. You experienced 
considerable pain." 

"I was talking to Faron Qun. 
What happened?" 

"The conversation with him was 
arranged as a demonstration for 
you. He was subjected to our con- 
ditioning methods, and the experi- 
ment was a complete success. He 
has been stripped of large patches 
of memory. He thinks he is still on 
Earth somewhere. He is confused, 
of course, by the blank-spots, but 
we filled them in with pseudo mem- 
ories. He was an easy subject." 



WALTER MILLER, JR. 

SAHL FELT the heat flooding 
his face. His lips twisted, but 
the curse wilted in his throat. Sud- 
denly his voice was gone. He 
gasped and strangled, and struggled 
against his bonds. Dizziness, ex- 
haustion, then nausea that left him 
drained. Slowly he relaxed, slowly 
the rage drained away. Then he 
lifted his hands easily to his face. 
There were no bonds! But he had 
felt them! 

The fellow in the corner made a 
cackling sound, possibly a response 
to Fyff's amusement. "With you we 
could not achieve complefe success. 
Your memory is nearly intact. You 
clung very stubbornly to recollec- 
tions, no matter how unpleasant we 
managed to make them for you. 
Given time, we could probably suc- 
ceed. But time is short, and we can 
use you better as you are." 

Another flood of anger, another 
choked off curse, followed by the 
sensation of strangulation and fear 
and sickness. He could not move. 
When at last he subsided, the fel- 
low cackled again. 

"Is something wrong, Morgun 
Sahl?" 

He sucked in a slow breath and 
kept himself calm. "What have you 
done to me?" 

"Conditioned you against overt- 
aggression in any form toward our 
race. That, at least, was successful. 
You will not be%ble to attack, con- 
demn, or harm a Piszjil in any way. 
If you persist in trying, you will only 
find yourself stricken by convul- 
sion^ perhaps unconsciousness." 

Sahl suppressed a surge of anger 
about to burst forth. He lay breath- 



LET MY PEOPLE GO 



51 



ing heavily, too stricken to speak. 

"You'll also find that it's impossi- 
ble for you to express an opinion 
that runs contrary to our wishes. 
You may feel it, but you can't ex- 
press it. Eventually it'll probably 
frustrate you to such an extent that 
you'll have to come around to our 
way of thinking or go mad. The 
conditioning won't last forever, but 
by the time it dies out you'll be 
either a conformist or insane, like 
Qun." 

It won't last forever, It won't last 
forever — his mind caught at the 
phrase and clung. 

"I wonder if most of your people 
are as stubborn as you, or as flexi- 
ble as Qun. We shall soon know, of 
course." 

Good, he thought, they hadn't 
gotten the others off the moon yet, 
at least. And if he knew Wolek 
Parn, they wouldn't manage to do 
it. They'd have to destroy Ark, 
colony and all. 

"What do you plan t<3 do with 
me?" he asked aloud. 

"Use you as an agent to Wolek 
Parn." 

"I don't understand." 

"Parn remains stubborn, even 
though we broadcast your messages 
to him. He is half -convinced, but 
not quite. He insists on talking to 
you in person before he agrees to 
your proposals." 

"Messages?" he gasped. "Pro- 
posals? I didn't—" The denial 
choked off into a low wheeze. 
Dizzyness again, and fright. He 
couldn't say it. The words refused 
to come, and he stammered gibber- 
ish. 

The spokesman cackled. "A ta- 



boo statement, Morgun Sahl." 

His helplessness enraged him, and 
the rage made the situation worse. 
He blacked out for a few moments. 
Then he lay weakly struggling to 
keep some sort of mental balance. 
"Try saying, 'I recommend that 
the whole colbny land on the planet 
without further delay.' " 

"I— I— " He swallowed hard. 
The statement fascinated him 
strangely. No harm in seeing what 
happens, he thought. Then he said 
it. "I recommend that the whole 
colony land ..." 



THE REACTION was immedi- 
ate. A feeling of warmth, of re- 
lief, a sense of security and of re- 
laxation spread over him. For a 
moment there was perfect content- 
ment and peace. From this too he 
recovered gradually, and icy fear 
replaced it. He was beginning to 
see. 

"Is that the state of mind Faron 
Qun is in?" he gasped. 

"Yes! Precisely! Wouldn't that 
be pleasant?" 

He wanted to bellow a fierce 
negative, but he checked the im- 
pulse before he strangled on it. 
"You know my answer," he said 
quietly. 

"Indeed I know it, but you can't 
make it. Now, as to your task — " 

"I won't . . . Won't . . . uhg! . . ." 

The Piszjil waited until he fin- 
ished choking, then continued: "A 
ship will take you to the Ark. Your 
task is to convince Wolek Parn to 
send the colony down at once, in a 
place we'll specify. You'll perform 
the task, because by that time you'll 



52 



WALTER MILLER, JR. 



be fully aware of your limftations, 
and awareness will actually serve 
to strengthen the block. You'll be 
consciously frightened as well as 
subconsciously. You can't help do- 
ing it, and you might as well face 
it." 

Sahl remained silent, fearful of 
another spasm. 

The Piszjil paused briefly, then 
continued slowly: "Consider this- 
After it's done, you'll be well re- 
warded. You'll have a pleasant life, 
in pleasant surroundings. Peace. 
Relative freedom. Eventually, you'll 
be content with it. Man, what more 
do you want? Why insist upon do- 
minion?" 

The biologist moistened his lips. 
He lay staring blankly at the ceil- 
ing, refusing to speak, trying not to 
think. He could not risk any reac- 
tion lest it prove to be a dead-end 
of despair. If I blunder into too 
many forbidden responses, he 
thought, I'll really get confused. 
I'll save it until I get to Parn., he 
continued, and then I'll throw a 
sputtering convulsion all over his 
command deck. He'll know some- 
thing's wrong. 

"Now," said ^iis tormentor. 
"Would you like to see Alaia Da- 
zille?" 

He sat up quickly. "May I?" 

"Out the door, three rooms down 
the ^corridor, and down the short 
incline to the seats. Go ahead." 

"I'm not docked in?" 

"No. Go anywhere you like — if 
you can." 

// you can. He had a fair idea of 
what would happen if he tried to 
cm ,ipt\ He refused to try. He would 
save it all up for Wolek Parn, and 



then rebellion. He left the room 
and followed the Piszjil's directions. 
Was he making a mistake? I must 
suppress all possibly forbidden re- 
sponses, he thought, lest I make the 
whole situation worse. 

He walked down the incline and 
through a sound-proofed door. As 
soon as he opened it, he heard her 
scream. He froze for a moment, 
looking beyond the door. Nothing 
but a tier of seats next to a railing, 
and beyond the rail a pit. It re- 
minded him of an operaing room. 
Somehow it looked familiar. He 
advanced slowly toward the rail. 

As Alaia's scream died, a monot- 
onous voice echoed through the 
huge room. "Repeat the incident 
again." 

He heard a faint sob. Alaia's. 
What were they doing to her? The 
same thing they had done to him — 
and to Faron with more success. He 
knew it vaguely, as he knew he had 
been in this room before. He 
reached the rail and looked down. 
She lay on her back in the center 
of a metal-plated floor far below. 
A Piszjil sat at a control-panel 
watching her coldly, while his saf- 
fron spokesman sat as if asleep be- 
hind him. 

"Repeat the incident again," the 
voice insisted, as the creature 
touched a control. 

A humming sound filled the 
room. She spoke slowly, as if in a 
trance, and he had to listen closely 
to understand her words. 

"Sahl, put that rod down! For 
God's sake! No . . . !" A pause, then 
a more frantic note: "You hit him! 
Sahl! You broke his leg! Faron, get 
out of his way! He's gone berserk!" 



LET MY PEOPLE GO 



53 



SAHL'S KNUCKLES whitened 
on the rail. He clenched his 
teeth to keep from shouting a de- 
nial that he knew could never pass 
the block. They were forging mem- 
ories, rooting out old ones, making 
new ones! Had they done the same 
to him? 

"Sahl, I've got a gun ... Put the 
rod down . . . Put it down, and let 
him alone . . . Sahl ! Get away from 
me . '. . Get back or I'll shoot.' . . . 
Sahl! All right! I warned you! Now 
it's too — " 

Her voice stopped suddenly. She 
made a choking sound. Then : "It's 
a lie, it's a lie, it's a lie! You're mak- 
ing me imagine this. I didn't kill 
him. / didn't kill ..." 

drrrnnnnnnngggggg — 

A sudden drone of surging 
power. As he stared, an aura of 
corona discharge flickered around 
her body like pale phosphorescence. 
Her screams were wild, insane, 
piercing. Sahl's belly was a sick 
knot. He hung panting on the rail, 
unable to draw himself away. The 
corona shimmered and flared and 
hissed — and subsided a little. 

"AH right!" she shrieked. "All 
right! Anything! I killed him! 
Okay! Make it stop!" 

Abruptly the corona disappeared. 
The Eridanian pressed another con- 
trol. He heard a faint buzz of pow- 
er, but there was no glow display. 
Alaia moaned — apparently with re- 
lief. 

"Thank God!" she kept saying. 
"Thank God! Don't let it stop. 
Ohhhhh ..." And then her voice 
became a low mumble of relief. 

The buzz of power died. He saw 
her stiffen. 



"Repeat the incident again," said 
the calm voice. 

She was silent for a moment, then 
spoke nervously. "I really didn't kill 
him; the gun went off accidental- 
ly." 

A long pause. Then the operator 
said, "Repeat the incident again, as 
you recall it." 

Sahl gritted his teeth. They were 
making her invent a false memory. 
He listened to her going through 
the imaginary scene again as if she 
were actually feeling, seeing, hear- 
ing it. 

"Alaia!" he shouted. "Alaia! Up 
here!" 

Nothing happened. No response 
either from the girl or from his in- 
ternal system of blocks. She con- 
tinued the reenactment. 

"Alaia! It's a lie— oh! Uhg!" His 
voice choked off, and he gasped for 
air. Crying hysterically, he slipped 
to the floor— and knew he had lost. 
They hadn't managed to blank his 
memory, but they had made him 
helpless. 

He knew dismally that he would 
do exactly what they wanted him 
to. Maybe it would be better to 
wind up like Faron. Faron at least 
didn't have to realize his condition. 
And it would be easy, just to let 
the unwanted things slip away into 
oblivion. To forget, and accept. 

That thought too was planted in 
you, warned the voice of sanity. 

Suddenly Alaia was screaming 
again that it was all a lie, a rotten 
lie, and it had never really hap- 
pened. Then the terrifying drrrnngg 
of the pain-making aura that seared 
every nerve ending without numb- 
ing or damaging tissue. Her screams 



54 



WALTER MILLER. JR. 



came to him this time as inevitable 
effect of known cause. She was try- 
ing to hang on the way he had done 
— but could do no longer 

He picked himself up slowly and 
crept back to his cage. And some- 
thing had slipped away, although 
he was not quite aware of what he 
had lost. 



Chapter XII 



"IT'S GOOD to see you back, 
J. Sahl," Wolek Parn said weari- 
ly as they entered the Captain's 
cabin on the Ark, "even though I 
can't say you were much of a diplo- 
mat — killing two of them, behaving 
like a wild animal." He paused to 
glance back at the biologist with 
mixed emotion, most of it carefully 
restrained. "You look worn out, 
worried. I suppose your visit was 
pretty unnerving in spots." 

Sahl nodded thoughtfully, felt a 
constriction in his throat, and mut- 
tered, "Not bad." 

The capain sat' down and re- 
mained silent for a moment. Sahl 
stood quietly facing him and wait- 
ing. He dared make no long speech- 
es, nor any unfavorable comment 
about the planet, or its keepers. He 
knew what he could say, and what 
was unspeakable. Over a week had 
passed since his first experience with 
the conditioned blocks, and he had 
learned the limitations. 

"1 low's Alaia?" Parn asked. 

"Fine," he said casually. Lying 
f.ii -c down, he thought, with a baby 
|i.ir.isite burrowing into her back. 
1'hey had done that for him. If he 



convinced Parn to bring the colony 
down, they'd remove the parasite 
from her before its roots grew too 
deep. If he failed, they said they'd 
let it stay. 

"How's Faron?" 

"Fine," he lied in the same tone. 

Parn sighed deeply. "I'm a little 
disappointed in you, Sahl. But then 
—we won't go into that. Results 
count, I guess — and they apparently 
aren't bitter about the two dead 
ones, nor about your behavior. AJ1 1 
wanted you back here for was to 
confirm what you said on the tele- 
cast. I was a little suspicious that 
you might be coerced, or hypno- 
tized, and made to say it. You 
weren't, were you?" 

"No." T#ey had told him what 
he had said on the telecast, but he 
hoped he wouldn't have to repeat 
any of it now. Ridiculous position 
I'm in, he thought, with the only 
club inside my head. What was 
worse, he knew a way to attack, a 
way to strike out at the Piszjil, but 
he could neither do it, nor reveal 
it to Parn. A weapon, but it couldn't 
be used. He had known about it in 
a general way for quite a while, but 
now the knowledge was more spe- 
cific. And useless. 

"You confirm everything you 
said in the broadcast then?" 

For a time, he tried to remain si- 
lent. But the silence itself was for- 
bidden, and after a moment he had 
to choke it out. 

"I confirm it all." 

Parn was staring at him peculiar- 
ly. "You feel all right? You look 
pale. There's nothing wrong with 
you now, is there?" 

"Nothing, nothing at all." 



LET MY PEOPLE GO 



55 



Parn's hand slipped unobtrusive- 
ly to a panel of buttons. He pressed 
one of them quietly, then folded his 
hands under his chin and put on a 
sour smile. He spent the next five 
minutes talking about the hard time 
he had endured trying to handle 
the restless colonists during the del- 
egation's absence. 



THE HATCH opened suddenly, 
and two men entered: Doctor 
Roli Karme and a burly colonist. 
They glanced at Parn, then at the 
biologist. Karme put out a big hand 
and spoke with a friendly half -grin. 

"Glad to see you, Sahl." 

The biologist noticed that he was 
carrying a medical kit in his other 
hand. He frowned slightly and won- 
dered. 

"How much time?" Karme mut- 
tered mysteriously to the Captain. 

Parn gestured toward the screen. 
"There's their ship waiting for him. 
It's obviously armed this time. They 
wanted to come with him, but I re- 
fused. They may come anyway, if 
we take too long." 

What were they talking about? 
He began to feel frightened. 

Karme turned to him with the 
friendly smile. "Would you stretch 
out on that cot, Sahl. I want to ex- 
amine you. Won't take long." 

"Wh-why?" He couldn't do it, if 
jt were for a forbidden purpose. 
But then, he shouldn't have asked. 

"Just want to see that you're all 
right." 

Physically? He bore no physical 
marks. He nodded slighly and 
obeyed. Karme made a very cur- 
sory inspection, then produced a 



hyp6 syringe. He pulle,d at Sahl's 
sleeve. 

"What's that for? What—?" 

"Just a sedative. Won't affect 
you for long." 

"I don't need—" But Karme had 
deftly stung him with . it and 
emptied the barrel in a moment. 

He began to feel warm and re- 
laxed. The doctor slipped some- 
thing around his arm and pulled it 
tight. 

"Blood pressure?" 

"Same kind of thing, isn't it?" 
came the non-committal answer. 

But then Karme had another 
syringe, and this time he probed for 
a vein. When Sahl protested, the 
burly colonist came in and sat on 
him, and Parn held his arm. The 
lights went dimmer by degree, and 
the room swirled about him. 

"Let's go back to the telecast," 
said a distant voice. "Sahl, you're 
telecasting to Captain Parn about 
the planet . . ." 

Events became a tide of confu- 
sion. Questions. Answers. Shouts. 
There was fear, and deep retreat 
into blackness, so deep that answer- 
ing became impossible, and con- 
sciousness was briefly gone. How 
long did it last? There was no spac- 
ing of events called "time" in the 
confusion. Events came and went, 
but there was no order among 
them. Voices plagued him, de- 
manded the impossible of him, and 
finally let him alone. 



THE FIRST voice he heard and 
understood was Parn's. He lay 
with his eyes closed and listened. 
"I can't understand it, Roli. Sahl 



56 



WALTER MILLER, JR. 



always seemed like a fairly stable 
fellow, sour sometimes, and chilly. 
I just can't see him making an im- 
passioned speech; it's out of char- 
acter." 

"He made it all right. The mem- 
ory's there somewhere, because 
snatches of it came out. He made 
the telecast, but — " 

"What?" 

"The way it came out this time 
was . . . well, mechanical, and fran- 
tic. Didn't it strike you that way?" 

"Yeah, and this other thing both- 
ers me too." 

"The sensitive areas? I can't un- 
derstand it either, Skipper. Why 
should he put up such a howl when 
I put him through the killing of 
that second Piszjil again? He 
couldn't have reacted that way 
while he did it. He was—" 

Sahl sat up with a sudden shud- 
der. "I couldn't kill one of them!" 
he shouted. "I couldn't!" 

The three of them turned to 
watch him for a moment, and ex- 
changed quiet glances among them- 
selves. He slumped, covering his 
face with his hands. Something had 
slipped away from him for a time, 
but now he remembered. There had 
been a time when he could kill the 
things if need be. But now — it was 
different. 

"Listen to me, Sahl," Karme said 
quietly, and waited for the biologist 
to look up. "We know something's 
wrong. Your response mechanisms 
are fouled up in spots. Speech and 
motor areas are affected. You block 
to certain things, refuse a response, 
and retreat. Not now, but under the 
drug. Now you're conscious, and 
you can choose alternate responses 



— cover up for the blocks. Under 
the drug, you didn't. Now, do you 
understand what I mean?" 

He understood perfectly, but he 
could only say, "Nothing happened. 
I'm all right." 

A long silence, then Karme said, 
"I want you to respond to my next 
questions by saying just the opposite 
of what you mean. If you mean 
'yes', say 'no'. If you mean 'good', 
say 'bad'. All right?" 

"Yeah, I guess so." 

"First question: was the telecast 
authentically yours?" 

He opened his mouth, but no 
sound came. The block was literal, 
and he couldn't say 'no'. But the 
block was also interpretive, and he 
couldn't communicate the facts by 
saying 'yes'. But if he remained si- 
lent they would know something 
was wrong, and that also was for- 
bidden. He screamed. 

"Grab him, quick!" Parn bel- 
lowed. 

Someone was 1 shaking him back 
to consciousness and he fought 
them. But the light was strong in 
his eyes, and the taste of neurodrine 
was in his mouth. 

"You've got to send the colony 
down," he babbled. "It's fine, 
everything's fine." 

A palm crashed hard across his 
face in a brutal slap. "Nothing per- 
sonal, Sahl," Parn growled. "But if 
you don't snap out of it, I'm going 
to beat hell out of you." 



SAHL HOPED he would do it. 
Anything, if it would help re- 
lease the flood of pent-up knowl- 
edge and the unspeakable plan for 



LET MY PEOPLE GO 



57 



attack. Mentioning the plan wasn't 
blocked literally, for the Piszjil 
hadn't thought of it specifically, but 
he couldn't talk about it because of 
his own intent to use it against 
them. He lay panting and staring 
at Parn. 

"Let him alone, Skipper," Karme 
said quietly. "He wants to say some- 
thing, but he can't." 

"I've seen enough!" the Captain 
grunted. "It's obvious that some- 
thing's been done to him. We can't 
go down." He turned to watch the 
screen. "They're waiting out there 
for an answer. They haven't made 
any threats, but damned if I like 
the looks of that armament. The 
first ship didn't have it. They put it 
on for something." 

"Why do they want us down 
there?" Karme complained. "Why 
should they invite a wild wolf to 
come wandering through their 
tame flocks?" 

Sahl lay forcing the immediacy of 
the situation out of his mind, tried 
to force away the present, tried to 
think of nothing. Wolf, sheep, dog, 
rabbit — 

"Rabbit," he said. "Somebody in- 
troduced rabbits into Australia." 

"What's he babbling about?" 

Karme fell thoughtful. "Histori- 
cal incident. Intercontinental tam- 
pering with fauna. Introduction of 
a rabbit pest." 

"So?" 

Karme shrugged. "Means noth- 
ing to me." 

It had meant a spasm of agony 
for Sahl. He tried again, rejecting 
the present, keeping only a vague 
notion in mind. 

"Japanese beetles— huhhh!" 



"He's choking!" 

"He's trying to say something." 
Karme paused. "What do we have 
in the stocking lockers besides rab- 
bits and rats?" 

"Bees, weasels, blacksnakes, foxes 
— oh hell! — everything small and 
wild. Not to mention the seeds and 
nuts and bacteria cultures. He was 
supposed to decide which, if any, 
of the Earth-forms should be cut 
loose on the alien planet." 

Karme turned to Sahl. "What is 
the answer to that, by the way?" 

Just one small word. One small 
word would do it. And then it 
would be done. His jaw worked 
frantically, and his breathing was 
agonized. The conditioning. It had 
to wear off sometime, FyfF had said. 

Just a word! 

"Well?" the doctor insisted. 
"Which species should be released 
here?" 

It came out in a scream of rage. 

"Everything! EVERYTHING!" 

Particularly the weasels to attack 
the fat little egg carriers, and the 
foxes to kill the fur balls, and the 
rats to infest the cities, and the rab- 
bits to gnaw on something vital un- 
til a flora sickened and shrank back 
from the rank aggressive grasses and 
the rampant weeds, until the tower- 
ing trees arose to rob the modest 
gardens of sunlight. Villages would 
suffer famine and either wander or 
die, and there would be hell to pay 
for the designers of a tailored sys- 
tem. And Man? He could not safe- 
ly enter the planet of peace, but a 
world in turmoil was just his meat. 
Famines made nomads, and some- 
one had to lead a village in flight. 
It would be touch and go, for 



58 



WALTER MILLER, JR. 



awhile, but as a wandering savage, 
Man would have a chance. The 
colony had wanted nothing more in 
th& beginning. 

"Something cracked!" Karme 
snapped. "He's slipping into gibber- 
ish." 

"What to do?" 

"Find out what he's trying to say. 
I can take him down to the lab, try 
everything from hypnosis to insulin 
shock. It'll be pretty tough on him 
though. May not be much left 
when it's over." 

"You have my permission to kill 
him," Parn said pleasantly. 

Karme bent over the stricken 
biologist and frowned. "Now what 
the hell made him grin like that?" 



Chapter XIII 



THE LAUNCHES flew at low 
altitude, streaking through the 
night toward the dawn-line, and 
only an occasional creature looked 
up, or opened the palm of his hand 
skyward to see if the faint rattling 
in the brush was rain. Beyond the 
dawn-line and over the day-zone, 
and past the place where the land- 
ing was assigned, where a delega- 
tion waited, and turned, and 
frowned after the departing rockets. 
No matter. They were foolish to 
try to escape, these launches. There 
was no place that they could land 
and make a break for freedom, for 
the world was subdued and orderly. 
The world was cut to a pattern, and 
the world would capture the col- 



onists quickly, no matter where 
they tried to run. 

The rockets landed on the night- 
side, two of them did. Two others 
disgorged their "colonists" in differ- 
ent places on the day-side. When 
the "colonists" were out, and 
scurrying away through the brush, 
the pilots emerged to wait. 

A voice came from seven thou- 
sand miles away, and it spoke 
mockingly from the moon. "You 
have been pested," it said. "Your 
garden is full of weeds. And we are 
still up here." 

"You will be destroyed immedi- 
ately," came the curt cold answer. 

"The pests are our pests, and we 
know how to deal with them," the 
mocker replied. "Do you?" 

There was a worried silence. 

"Refuel our launches and send 
them back up," demanded the 
moon-voice. "We're coming down." 

Wolek Parn bracketed the micro- 
phone and grinned at the dazed 
man who lay on the cot. 

"Brace up, Sahl. The worst pests 
that ever infested anyplace will be- 
down there soon. Us. One of the 
pilots demanded that they let Alaia 
go, and Faron — -if he wants to. I 
think they will." 

Sahl's hand slipped over his fore- 
head. There was a lot that he 
couldn't remember. Blank spaces. 

"You got the idea across. I know 
it tore you up. You'll pull out okay, 
though. Of course, humans are still 
in for a rough go down there for 
awhile. But 'then — when haven't 
they been? We'll make out all right. 
We always have . . ." 



THE END 



Only One Question Is Eternal— 
What Lies Beyond the Ultimate?, 



THE ONE 
and 

THE MANY 



By Milton Lesser 



THERE ARE some who tell me 
it is a foolish war we fight. My 
brother told me that, for one, back 
in the Sunset Country. But then, my 
brother is lame and good for noth- 
ing but drawing pictures of the 
stars. He connects them with lines, 
like a child's puzzle, and so makes 
star-pictures. He has fish stars, 
archer stars, hunter stars. That, I 
would say, is what is foolish. 

Perhaps that is what started it 
all. I was looking at the stars, trying 
to see the pictures, when I should 
have been minding my sentry post. 
They took me like a baby, like a tot 
not yet given to the wearing of 
clothing. The hand came out of the 
darkness and clamped over my 
mouth, and I ceased my struggling 
when I felt a sharp blade pricking 



at the small of my back. 

At first I feared that they would 
slay the entire camp as it slept and 
I cursed my brother for his star pic- 
tures, cursed our leader who had 
sent us here, twenty archers, against 
the Onist outpost on our country's 
border. But the Onists had other 
ideas. They took me away. I. had to 
admire their vitality, because all 
night we ran through the silent 
woodlands, and they seemed tire- 
less. I could maintain their pace, 
of course: but I'm a Pluralist. 

I could see their village from a 
long way off, its night fires glowing 
in the dark. It was only then that 
we slowed our pace. Soon we en- 
tered the place, a roughly circular 
area within a stockade, and my cap- 
tors thrust me within a hut. I 



59 



60 



MILTON LESSER 



couldn't do much worrying about 
tomorrow, not when I was so tired. 
I slept. 

I dreamed a stupid dream about 
the Onist beliefs, the beliefs of an 
unimaginative people who could 
picture one Maker and one Maker 
only. I must have chuckled in my 
sleep. 

"You're awake." 

A brilliant statement, that — be- 
cause I had sat up, squinted into 
the bright sunlight streaming in 
through the doorway, yawned and 
stretched. The Onists, I tell you, 
lack imagination. 

The girl who spoke was a pretty 
enough little thing for an Onist. 
She smiled, showing even white 
teeth. "Do you Pluralists eat?" 

I nodded and rubbed my belly. I 
was to have had dinner after my 
turn as sentry the night before, and 
now I felt like I could do justice to 
my portion even at one of the orgies 
for which the Onists are so famous. ' 

"Bring on your food and I'll 
show you," I told her, and she 
turned her back to walk outside. It 
was early and the village seemed si- 
lent — surely they hadn't intended 
this one slim maid to guard me! Yet 
she seemed alone. 

I leaped at her, circled her neck 
with my arm, prepared to make my 
exit. They would laugh around our 
fire when I told them of this fine, 
example of the Onist lack of fore- 
sight 

Except that the girl yelped. Not 

loudly, but it was loud enough, and 

a big muscular Onist came striding 

' in with his -throwing spear. He 

backed me off into a corner, prod- 



ding my hungry belly with his 
weapon. 

"Will you behave?" 



I TOLD him I would and he 
backed outside, but this time I 
could see his shadow across the 
doorway. 

The girl brought food and par- 
took of it with me. I was surprised, 
because we Pluralists will not eat 
with an Onist out of choice. Well, 
I have said they are a strange peo- 
ple. Soon the girl stood up, patting 
her mouth daintily with a square of 
cloth, and in that, of course, she 
was trying to mime our graceful 
Pluralist women. "I suppose you 
think we are going to kill you," she 
said. Just like that. 

"To tell you the truth, I haven't 
given it much thought. There isn't 
much I can do about it." 

"Well, we're not. We could have 
done that back at your camp. We 
could have killed all of you. No, 
we want to show you something." 

I had a ridiculous thought that 
they made star-pictures, too—even 
those who are not lame like my 
brother. I said, "Well, what will 
happen to me after you show me?" 

She smiled. "You still think we're 
going to kill you. What's your 
namer 

I told her, but I thought: she 
can't even keep a conversation go- 
ing without changing the subject. 

"Jak," she repeated after me. 
"That's a common enough name. 
We have Jaks among our Onist 
people, you know." 

"No, I didn't. But you probably 
copied it." 



THE ONE AND THE MANY 



6\ 



"I doubt that. We were here first, 
Jak. Our records say so. Probably, 
you once captured a man with that 
name, long ago, liked it, and took it 
for your people." 

"You were here first!" I sneered. 
"Maybe that's what your records 
tell you, but it isn't so. Look: the 
Makers endowed us with life, then 
went away in to the sky. By mistake 
they left one idiot-Maker behind, 
and he had nothing to do. He made 
you Onists before he perished, and 
that is why you think there is only 
one Maker." 

She seemed highly insulted. 
"Idiot-Maker? Idiot! There was 
only one Maker, ever, but because 
your minds cannot conceive of all 
that glory residing in one figure, 
you invented a score." 

Now it was my turn to be indig- 
nant. "A score? Hundreds, you 
mean; thousands — more than there 
are leaves on the trees." 

"Well, I won't argue with you. 
Our war has been arguing that 
point well enough." I was sorry she 
would not argue. She looked very 
pretty when she argued, her breasts 
heaving, her eyes sparkling fire. 

"What's your name?" I asked. 

"Nari. My name is Nari. And 
don't tell me you had that name 
first!" 

I smiled blandly. "Of course we 
did. I have an aunt, my mother's 
sister, who goes by that name. My 
brother's wife's cousin, also; but she 
is very ugly." 

"And am I ugly?" Nari wanted 
to know. I guess in that sense at 
least, women are the same every- 
where — Pluralist or Onist, it doesn't 
matter. 



I LOOKED at her. I looked at her 
I so hard that it made her blush, 
and then she looked even prettier. 
But I didn't tell her so. 

"You will pass, for an Onist," I 
admitted. "I guess the Onists might 
consider you pretty; the Onist men 
might stamp their feet and shout if 
you go by — but then, they are On- 
ists." 

At that, she seemed on the verge 
of leaving my prison hut, but some- 
thing made her change her mind. 
She stayed all morning and on into 
the afternoon. We argued all the 
time, except at midday, when she 
went outside to get our lunch. She 
stumbled a little and fell half 
against my shoulder. I moved to- 
ward her to hold her up, and it was 
the most natural thing in the world 
to take her in my arms and kiss her. 
She must have thought so, too; she 
responded beautifully — for an On- 
ist. 

After lunch, Nari did not men- 
tion the kiss, nor did I. It now 
seemed the most natural thing in 
the world not to talk about it. We 
argued some rrlore, Nari defending 
her primitive beliefs, I trying to 
show her the light of truth. But it 
was no use: the war had been 
fought and the war would continue. 

Later that day we set out. That 
came as a surprise to me, because 
I had taken it for granted that 
whatever the Onists wanted to 
show me was right here in this lit- 
tle village. A dozen of us went, and 
when we had been on the trail for 
some little time, Nari joined us, de- 
claring that she wanted to see it 
again — whatever it was. 

We went for three days, and al- 



62 



MILTON LESSER 



though these Onists turned out to 
be better woodsmen than I had 
thought, still, they could not match 
the skill we Pluralists have mastered 
over the generations. I believe I 
could have escaped, had I wanted 
to; but I hardly seemed a prisoner 
of war, and besides, once or twice 
when we had lagged to the rear of 
the column, Nari stumbled against 
me like that day in the hut, and 
what could I do but kiss her? 

It was another village we reached 
at the end of our march, much big- 
ger than the first. Surprisingly, it 
looked a lot like a Pluralist town, 
although it may only have seemed 
so because I had been out in the 
woodlands for three days. They 
took me straightways to the village 
square, and it was there that I saw 
the statue. 



THESE statues of the Makers are 
rare, and I was surprised to see 
one in an Onist village. I got on my 
knees at once to do it reverence. I 
realize it was impious to look up, 
but I did— I had to see if it were 
the genuine thing. And it was, to 
the last detail. Constructed of the 
forbidden substance known as 
metal, it towered three times a 
PluraHst's height, or three times a 
Onist's, for that matter. I have al- 
ways wondered why the.Makers did 
not create our ancestors in their 
own substance, as they had fashion- 
ed us in their image. But that is an 
impious thought. 

A stern gray-haired Onist who 
said he was Nari's father took me 
aside afterwards. "Now, Jak," he 
asked me, "what can you say of 



what you have seen?" 

I shrugged. "I can say that some- 
how you've found one of % the Maker 
statues. What more?" 

"It's one, is it not?" 

"Of course it's one. They are 
rare, but I have seen three, all told, 
in Pluralist villages." 

"And each time they were sep- 
arate? You never saw a group?" 

"No. No I didn't." 

He slapped his hands together 
triumphantly. "Then that proves it. 
Each is a copy of the original Mak- 
er, but there was only one. Other- 
wise you would have seen statues 
in groups. And that is why you are 
here, Jak : we want you to go back 
to your people and tell them what 
you saw." 

I shook my head. "What you say 
isn't logical. So what if the statues 
are never in pairs or groups? We've 
only seen a few, when once there 
must have been many. Also, when 
your artists do their magic with 
dyes and create portraits, are they 
generally done one at a time or in 
groups?" 

"One at a time, so the artist may 
capture the personality in each face, 
naturally. I have seen group por- 
traits, but I think they are silly 
things." 

"Exactly." Now I was trium- 
phant. "Exactly as the Makers 
thought, which is why the statues 
are always single— " 

"But it is impious to say there 
was more than one Maker! He had 
all the knowledge in the world at 
his fingertips, and so there was no 
need for more than one. More than 
this world, even: he went to the 
stars. Or don't you believe that?" 



THE ONE AND THE MANY 



63 



"Of course I believe it. Only, 
they went to the stars, the thou- 
sands of Makers. It isn't impious, 
because if you can think of one be- 
ing as great as that, try to picture 
thousands. Yes, thousands. That 
makes me thousands of times more 
pious than you Onists." 

He shook his head wearily. 
"What's the use? It is for this we 
are fighting our war, and we 
thought if we took one of you here, 
showed him the undeniable truth of 
our statue. . . . Well, will you at 
least return to your people with a 
tale of what you have seen?" 

I agreed readily enough: prob- 
ably, the alternative was death. Al- 
though Pluralists on rare occasions 
have been known to take Onist 
women as their wives, an Onist 
prisoner of war was an unwanted 
thing. The reverse would also be 
true. 



THEY all bid me goodbye, except 
for Nari. I could not find her 
anywhere in the village, and a little 
sadly I set out on my long journey 
back to the Sunset Land. By now 
our raiding party had finished its 
work on the small Onist village on 
the rim of our country, and I could 
do nothing but return to my pcopfe, 
where we might plan new strategy 
against the unbelievers. 

But I had wanted to bid Nari 
farewell. 

I met her in the woodlands, a 
travel bag slung over her shoulder 
like a male's. "I wanted to say 
goodbye privately," she told me. 



"Good," I said, but I knew she 
was lying. Else why the travel bag? 

"Goodbye," Nari whispered, but 
she was not looking at me. Looking, 
instead, behind her, at the land of 
her people. 

"Nari," I told her, "I have to 
admit it. You are very pretty — even 
by Pluralist standards. You are — " 

This time she did not stumble 
against me. It wasn't necessary. I 
drew her to me, and I kissed her a 
long kiss. Then I told her I loved 
her, and women, I suppose, will al- 
ways be women, because she said 
she knew it. 

I will take Nari back to our vil- 
lage in the Sunset Land, where we 
will be married by the laws of my 
people. And if ever there is to be 
peace between the Pluralists and 
the Onists, it may, after all, come 
on these grounds. The Onists have 
their beliefs, and so I hate them 
for their impious thoughts. But the 
love of a man for a maid exists 
apart from that. 

It won't be easy. Our arguing 
continued all the w,ay back to the 
Sunset Land, , and Nari is as stub- 
born as I am firm. 

"There is one Maker," she said. 

And I told her, "No, there are 
many." 

Or later, as we neared the Sunset 
Land, we picked up the thread of 
our thoughts again. Pluralist or 
Onist, we androids are dogmatic 
creatures. 

"One Robot created us all before 
he went to the stars," said Nari. 

"Robots," I said. "Many Ro- 
bots." But I kissed her. 



THE END 



They lifted Hoiman's scratch, thus 
causing him to lose much smoosh. So he 
grabbed his bum and hit the high orbit. 



Hoiman and the 
Solar Circuit 

By Gordon Dewey 



PAY DAY! I scrawled my Larry 
Maloney across the back of the 
check and handed it to Nick, the 
bartender. "Leave me something 
to operate on," I told him. 

Nick turned it over. "Still with 
the News?" 

The question was rhetorical. I let 
it pass without swinging at it. I was 
mentally estimating the total of the 
pile of tabs Nick pulled out of the 
cash register, like a fighter on per- 
centage trying to count the house. 
I didn't like the figure it gave me.. 

Nick added them up, then added 
thern again before he pulled some 
bills out of the money drawer and 
said, "Here's thirty skins. Your 
rent due?" 

"Thi '11 cover it. I'll do my 
drinkim-', here." 

I went over to a booth and sat 



64 



down. I lit a cigarette. I smoked. 
And waited. Presently Sherry, tall, 
dark and delicious, decided I was 
making like a customer, and strolled 
over. "Would you like a menu, Mr. 
Maloney?" she trilled. 

"Larry to you," I reminded her. 
"No menu. Bring me a steak. Big. 
Thick. Rare. And a plate of french 
fries. No salad. Bread and butter. 
Coffee." 

*She managed at last to pull her 
writing hand out of mine, and I 
had to repeat the order. Unless it 
could be turned into money, 
Sherry's memory was limited strict- 
ly to the present instant. 

She - put in the order, then 
brought me a set-up. I let my eyes 
go over her, real careful, for maybe 
the thousandth time. No doubt of 
it — the lassie had a classy chassis. 



It looked as though Hoiman's Bum 
would be remembered on Mars. 




66 



GORDON DEWEY 



If she just wouldn't yak so damn 
much. 

"Did you see the matches last 
night?" She didn't wait for my an- 
swer, just went on with the yat-a-ta. 
"I spent the whole evening just 
glued to my television set. I was 
simply enthralled. When the Hor- 
rible Hungarian got the Flying 
Hackensack on — " 

"Standing Hackenschmidt, Sher- 
ry!" 

" — poor little Billie McElroy I 
wanted to — -to scratch his eyes out." 

I pointed out that McElroy 
weighed in at two forty-one and 
had gone on to win the match. 
Sherry never heard me. 

"And the way the Weeping 
Greek kept hitting the other fellow 
— the announcer said he was throw- 
ing Judo cutlets." 

"Cuts, not cutlets." 

"But aren't Judo cutlets illegiti- 
mate?" The barest hint of a puz- 
zled frown tugged at her flawless 
brows as she poured ice water into 
my glass. 

"The word," I repeated, "is cuts. 
And the blow is not illegal." I gave 
my eyes another treat. What a 
chassis. And what a mind. "Any- 
thing these days, so long as you 
don't kill your opponent, is legal in 
wrestling." 

Suddenly we had company; a lit- 
tle man who made scarcely a sound 
as he slid into my booth and sat 
facing me. "Rassling, yet," he said, 
in hitler tones. "What a woid. 
Dun't be saying it." He helped him- 
self to a cigarette from my pack 
kin", on the table, and put the pack 
in 1 1 is pocket. He lit the cigarette, 
ti„iii; my lighter, which he held a 



moment longer than necessary be- 
fore replacing it — regretfully— on 
the table. 

He inhaled deeply. "Rassling!" 
he repeated. "Leave us not discuss 
it." 



HE WAS thin, haggard, unkempt, 
and his brown suit — in which 
the chalk stripes were beginning to 
blend with the background — was 
threadbare. He needed a shave, and 
his fingernails were dirty. He was 
vaguely familiar. The beady little 
eyes flicked up at me, and all un- 
certainty dissolved. 

"Oh, no!" I said. "Not you. 
Not—" 

He exhaled a great cloud of 
smoke. "Hoiman Katz," he said, in 
dejected tones. "It is me, again.. 
The same as like always, only not 
sO better." He sighed. 

Sherry's tongue had been shift- 
ing from one foot to the other, wait- 
ing for an opening. "Are you a 
wrestler, Mr. Katz?" she asked 
brightly. 

Hoiman half rose from his seat, 
and the cigarette dropped from his 
lax mouth. Then he slumped down 
again, spread his hands, shrugged, 
and said, "Now I esk you!" 

' Sherry said, "I guess not." Then, 
"Shall I bring you something?" Her 
eyes were on me as she asked. She 
hadn't worked on Vine Street for 
six years without learning the ropes 
— about people at least. 

I nodded. 

Katz was waiting for the nod. He 
licked his lips. "I'll have a—" 

"Planet Punch?" 

"No. I'll have a—" 



HOIMAN AND THE SOLAR CIRCUIT 



67 



"Sojar Sling? Martian Mule?" 

Hoiman's eyes squinted shut, and 
he winced eloquently. "Martian!" 
he groaned. "With rassling, too! 
Bring me a bottle of beer. Two bot- 
tles!" After a moment he peered 
cautiously through slitted lids. "Is 
she gone?" he whispered. "Such 
woids. Rassling. Martian. Better I 
should have stood in Hollywood." 

I laughed. "What's the matter 
with wrestling, Hoiman? Last 1 
heard you were managing a good 
boy — what was his name?" 

"Killer Coogan? That bum!" 

I had to do some thinking back. 
"Yeah," I said, "that's the boy. 
Started wrestling back in the fifties. 
Good crowd pleaser. Took the 
Junior Heavyweight Championship 
from Brickbuster Bates. Had a trick 
hold he called the pretzel bend — 
hard to apply, but good for a sub- 
mission every time when he 
clamped it on. Right?" » 

"Okay, so he won some bouts 
with it. But that was twenty-five 
years ago. He's slower, can't use 
that holt any more. We ain't had 
no main events for a long time, and 
my bum is a big eater, see?" 

"So?" 

"So Hoiman Katz is not sleep- 
ing yet at the switch. He's got it up 
here." A grimy forefinger tapped 
his wrinkled brow. "I says, Hoiman, 
if we don't get it here, we gotta go 
where we can get it." 

Sherry came back with Hoiman's 
two bottles of beer, and my steak 
and french fries. The steak was a 
dream, and the french fries were a 
crisp, rich golden brown that start- 
ed my mouth watering. 

Sherry wanted to talk. I waved 



her down, and she went away pout- 
ing. If there was a story in Hoiman 
I wanted to get it without inter- 
ference. 

He was pouring a second glass of 
beer. His beady eyes swivelled up to 
mine, then quickly away. "You 
want I should tell you about my 
bum?" 

I mumbled something through a 
mouthful of good juicy steak. 

Hoiman sighed, reminiscently, 
and a grimy paw swooped into my 
french fries. I moved them to the 
other side of my steak platter. 



WE WOIKED all up- and down 
the Coast, (Hoiman said) . My 
bum- took all comers. Slasher Slade 
had his abominal stretch. Crusher 
Kane had his rolling rocking horse 
split; Manslaughter .Murphy had 
his cobra holt — but none of those 
guys had anything like my Bum's 
pretzel bend. He trun 'em all, and 
they stayed trun. 

That was fine. All through the 
fifties, and the sixties we made 
plenty scratch. Maybe it slowed 
down, but we was eating regular. In 
the seventies my bum was slowing 
up. I shoulda seen it when he 
started missing his holt. That leaves 
him wide open, see? And twict the 
other bum moiders him. 

That was recent — they was just 
putting in regular passenger service 
on the space lines, so you could buy 
tickets to the Moon, or Venus or 
Mars. Depended on whether you 
was ducking a bill or some broad. 

By this time my bum is getting 
pinned to the mat too regular, and 
we're slipping out of the big dough. 



68 



GORDON DEWEY 



I counts up our lettuce one day, and 
I says to my bum, I says, Ray, I 
says, you and me are going to the 
Moon. 

So what If they didn't have a 
rassling circuit there yet, I tell him. 
Just leave it to your uncle Hoiman. 
We'll make our own circuit. 

I figured that the ribbon clerks 
wouldn't be taking space rides for 
awhile, and if we went to the 
Moon we'd find some bums there 
who could give my bum a good 
bout, but not fast enough to toss 
him. 

So we went there. 

« 

Hoiman's eyes, looking into the 
past, had lost their beadiness. 
He'd shifted his third glass of beer 
to his right hand, and his left, seem- 
ingly of its own volition, had found 
my plate of french fries. The pile 
had dwindled by half, and tell-tale 
potato crumbs were lodged in the 
whiskers on Hoiman's unshaven 
chin. Neither beer nor potatoes in 
his mouth seemed to matter — he 
went right on talking at the same 
rate. 

It takes me two weeks, (Hoiman 
continued), to ballyhoo up a bout, 
line up another bum, fix up the 
ring and hall and everything. .We 
was down to our last lettuce that 
night. I gets my bum" by the ear, 
and I tells him, I says, make it a 
good show. But don't take no 
chances —this is winner take all, 
and we better not lose. Don't use 
your pretzel bend unlessen you have 
to. 

This hum we rassle was a big 
miner, see:' — hard as the rocks he 



juggles around in the daytime. He 
was stronger'n my bum, but he 
don't know nothing about rassling. 
My bum tried a step-over toehold 
on him, but he knows how to kick. 
My bum goes through the ropes. He 
don't try that no more. 

They rassle around, and eight 
minutes later my bum takes first 
fall with a body press after flatten- 
ing the miner with a hard knee lift. 
I told my bum to let him take the 
second fall, which he does. The big 
miner gets a head scissors on him 
and like to moiders him before he 
can submit. 

Ray isn't liking it, and he takes 
the third one quick with a abominal 
stretch, which surprises the big guy 
and takes all the fight outa him. He 
didn't know they was holts like that, 
and he passes the word around that 
my bum has plenty moxie. So we 
get only one more bout on the 
Moon— but outa the two we get 
enough scratch to take us to Venus. 

Hoiman paused, trying hard to 
pour more beer out of the empty 
second bottle. He licked his lips like 
they were real dry, and his beady 
eyes flicked a glance at me that 
came and went as fast as the tip of 
a swinging rapier. I signalled Sher- 
ry to bring two more bottles of 
beer. Hoiman relaxed, sighed, gaz- 
ing almost affectionately at the new 
crop of french fries which had ap- 
peared suddenly in his clutching 
fist. 

Sherry, still pouting, came with 
the beer, and ten seconds later Hoi- 
man was talking again. 

We did okay on Venus, (he 
said). Before long I have a regular 



HOIMAN AND THE SOLAR CIRCUIT 



69 



little circuit woiked up in the three 
spaceports, and they is plenty bums 
there what think they can rassle. 
Some of them can — my bum has to 
use his pretzel bend oftener and 
oftener. He's lucky, and he don't 
slip none clamping it on — at first. 

I have ta tell you about them 
Venusians. Them dustlanders, I 
mean. They got big flat wide feet 
for padding through the dust, and 
their noses are like a big spongy 
thing all over their puss, to filter the 
dust out. So they got no expression 
on their pans. A guy like me, which 
has got a real expressive face, could 
get the willies just looking at them. 
And their eyes — round and flat, big 
as silver dollars. 

Them dustlanders was nuts about 
ras sling. They flock to the rassling 
shows and buy good seats. They 
don't do no hollering and waving 
like people do. Just sit there, staring 
out of them big fiat eyes and mak- 
ing funny chuffing noises at each 
other when some bum would get a 
good hold on the other. 

My bum didn't pay them no 
never mind at foist, but one day he 
tells me he keeps feeling them eyes 
on him while he's rasslin'. I give 
him the old razz — but that night he 
tries for his pretzel bend, and 
misses. The other bum is young and 
fast, and my bum gets trun, but 
good! 

So this happens a few more 
times, and my bum says we gotta 
move on — he can't rassle no more 
with them dustlanders staring at 
him and chuffing about him. 

Some -of them ear benders on 
Venus are studying up on the side, 
anyhow, and the outlook for my 



bum ain't so good no more nohow. 
So we go to Mars. 

I signalled Sherry for my coffee, 
as Hoiman ground to a stop while 
he refilled his glass. I swear my eyes 
weren't away from the table for 
more than a half second, but in that 
moment all the french fries left my 
plate. I yielded to Fate — is wasn't 
meant to be that I eat french fries 
this pay day. 

Things are primitive like on 
Mars, (Hoiman was saying), on ac- 
counta the troubles they have with 
power there. We rassled under some 
funny set-ups, but that's okay with 
me as long as my bum tosses his 
man. 

This time they ain't none of them 
screwy Venusians to put the wham- 
my on him, and he's doing okay. 
Until — I gotta admit it — I get del- 
uges of grandeur, or something. 

I gotta tell ya about them Mar- 
tians. They are about seven feet 
tall, not too heavy, but they got ' 
plenty moxie. And an extra pair of 
arms, so I get to thinking they 
oughta be terrific in the ring. Just 
so they ain't too terrific. 

I ask my bum, I says to him, I 
says, could he, does he think, trun 
one of them Martians? He says iff en 
he has to he'll use his pretzel bend, 
and they ain't no Martian on six 
legs, or eight, what won't say uncle. 

So I check with the Colony Ad- 
ministrator, and he says it's okay for 
a match perviding we don't inter- 
fere with any of their beliefs or cus- 
toms or conventions. I ast him what 
were they, and he told me the Mar- 
tians never talked about them, . so 



70 



GORDON DEWEY 



we'd just have to be careful. 
» What the hell, I says to my bum. 
A bout's a bout. So I start promot- 
ing. First I find out do them Mar- 
tians have a bum what wants to 
rassle my bum, winner "take all — 
which is the way we like to rassle, 
when I know my bum can trun the 
other bum. Natch. 

I don't mean we talk to the Mar- 
tians — I don't savvy them squeaks 
they use on each other. We hire an 
interpreter — we have to take his 
word for it that everything is woik- 
ing out. 

So the night of the match comes 
around and them Martians insist 
on having it in their own town, 
Meekweek it sounds like, near as I 
can say it in people talk. Remem- 
ber I told you it was primitive? You 
never seen nothing like this. They 
don't live with people by the way. 
They live off by theirselves in their 
own town. 

The ring and mat and ropes are 
okay — not regulation, but nothing 
to squawk about.' Them lights was 
what get me. The Martians got no 
power, so they make a deal with 
some insecks. Gross my heart — 'sa 
fack. You never see such insecks. 
Round, big as a dinner plate, flat 
on top, rounded off on the bottom. 
They stay up in the air by spin- 
ning like a wheel — Just like them 
flying saucers the Rigellians was 
spying on us in the fifties. You 
wouldn't remember about that. 

At night the bottom part of them 
insecks lights up like a big electric 
bulb, almost as bright, too. They 
was enough of them zinging around 
over the ring to make it look like 
it was floodlighted. My bum says 



they remind him of them dish-eyed 
Venusians, but I quick change the 
subjeck. That shoulda tipped me 
off — shoulda give me a freemoni- 
tion that the party was gonna get 
rough. If I'da known how rough, 
we'da stood in town. 

The Martian bum is a big mug, 
and those four arms of his look 
mighty plural. I quick tells my bum, 
I says to him, I says, watch out for 
arm locks and leg strangles. If that 
overgrowed spider ever gets one on 
you he'll double keylock it! 



THE TWO bums go in the ring, 
and get their instructions. 
Mostly the ref makes motions. The 
Martian nods his head like he un- 
derstands fine. When the ref is tell- 
ing them about trunnin' each other 
outen the ring, the Martian makes 
a motion like can he trun his man 
up in the rafters? 

The ref shakes his head no, and 
that seems to satisfy the Martian. 
The timekeeper blows a whistle, 
and things start to moving. That 
Martian Mangier puts down his 
two middle limbs, uses them like 
legs, and is across the ring and 
swarming all over my bum while 
he is still taking his foist step. 

Before you know it the ref is 
counting one, two, three, and my 
bum is trun for the foist fall. The 
Martian is using his middle limbs 
like arms, and he has a hammerlock 
and an arm strangle both on my 
bum — and both of them keylocked! 

The ref gets them untangled, and 
I quick tell my bum we ain't hurt 
until we get trun twict. So I tell 
him how to get that next fall — to 



HOIMAN AND THE SOLAR CIRCUIT 



71 



keep away from them four arms 
and keep circling until he gets a 
chance to clamp on the pretzel 
bend. 

The whistle blows, and this time 
my bum uses my head. When the 
Martian Mangier gallops over to 
his corner, my bum has went 
through the ropes and quick runs 
around on the apron to the other 
side and comes at the Martian from 
behind before the goof knows 
what's happening. 

He lets the Martian have a rab- 
bit punch, then a forearm smash, 
then a knee to his stomach. The 
Martian leans over, .kinda sick, 
maybe, and gets a knee lift to the 
smoosh. This softens him up good, 
and my bum clamps the pretzel 
bend on him. That Martian squirms 
like an octopus, Hvith arms and legs 
flying in all directions. And you 
coulda knocked me over with a 
subpoena when he got out of it! 

Your guess is as good as mine, 
how he done it. But my bum is 
moving fast, and he gives him some 
more knee lifts and a drop kick or 
two, and then a hair mare, and he 
falls on him for a body press and 
gets the count- 

Each bum has got a fall. You 
shoulda heard them Martians there 
squeaking this time — ten times as 
loud as when their bum won the 
foist fall. But they had no squawks. 
These flying chandeliers they had, 
they kinda bunched up to follow the 
action, and the light was good so 
the ref couldn't make no mistake 
about it. 

That Martian squirming out of 
the pretzel bend don't look so good, 
so I tell my bum not to use it for 



the thoid fall. I tell him to give 
the Martian some more of them , 
knee lifts — he don't get along with 
them at all. I tell him to folly that 
up with a airplane spin and a body 
slam. 

My bum follys instructions to the 
alphabet, and that is just what hap- 
pens. He bangs that Martian 
around with elbow smashes and 
knee lifts till he don't know is he 
on one leg or six. Then he goes in 
fast and grabs him by a coupla legs 
and arms, holds him up in the air, 
and spins him like a pinwheel. 

Right away I knowed something 
was in the air besides that Martian 
Mangier. Oi! Did things happen all 
to onct! 

My bum slams the Martian and 
falls on him for the count, and 
wins the thoid fall and the match. 
That part is okay. But while the 
Martian is still up in the air I 
notice that all the squeaking from 
the Martians has stopped all of a 
sudden. 

So from the Martians we are get- 
ting nothing but silence, strictly 
wholesale. I think maybe that's 
natural when their bum* gets trun. 

And then— plop! plop! plop! — 
and them flying light bulbs all drop 
down flat on the mat and lay there 
just like the Martian bum, until 
they isn't enough light in the house 
to see to strike a match. And then 
the squeaking starts again, like a 
million hungry rats, and I can just 
barely see them Martians starting 
for the ring. 

I gets my bum by the arm and 
tells him something tells me we 
better blow the joint. We blow, fast. 
Them Martians is mad about some- 



72 



GORDON DEWEY 



thing which I ain't had time to 
figure out, yet. My bum steps on 
one of them animated light fixtures 
when he gets out of the ring and 
squashes it. A puddle of light squirts 
out, and natch he steps in it. We 
are scramming through that crowd 
like mad, and we are in the clear. 
But we hear them squeaks behind 
us for a long time. They are follyin' 
the glowing footprints my burn is 
leaving to point the way. 

He emptied the last bottle of 
beer, holding it upended for a long 
time waiting for the final laggard 
drop to detach itself. He stalled 
over his drink, waiting for me to ask 
him what happened, so I did. He 
put on his most wounded expres- 
sion, and I knew then that he'd suf- 
fered a mortal blow — to his purse. 

Yeah, we got away, I made my 
bum trun away his flashy shoes so 
they couldn't track us by them. We 
walked all the way back to Neo- 
polis, the people city. All kinds of 
plain and fancy rumors beat us 
there, so the Colony Cops put us in 
protective custody until they got 
the straight story. 

Nobody ever saw another Mar- 
tian. It seems that they got some 
trick notions about theirselves. 
They are proud because they can 
walk on the ground and don't have 
to fly, so they got a hearty contemp 
for things that fly, like them insecks 
which they used for house lights. 

Now, them insecks is dopes too 
and would give anything if they 
could walk like the Martians. And 
the Martians know the insecks can 
think a little, and it makes them 



feel good to have the insecks look- 
ing up to them. Lord knows nobody 
else does. 

So when my bum lifted their 
bum up in the air and spun him 
around like a pinwheel it was a big 
insult to them. They took it that 
my bum was as much as telling 
them that he didn't think they was 
any better than them insecks fly- 
ing around over the ring. And the 
insecks took it as a invite to come 
down and try the Martians racket 
so that's why they all flop into the 
ring and the lights go out. They 
was trying to walk. 

That's more than the Martians 
can take. They swarm into the 
ring and kill all the insecks. They' da 
killed us too, but I got smart brains 
and we didn't hang around asking 
for it. 

Ahd now they won't have noth- 
ing to do with no people from 
Earth on account of they have lost 
so much smoosh, the way they look 
at it. 

We got no take from that bout. 
And the Colony Administrator 
lifts all our scratch — said we'd 
gummed up Martian trade and 
he'da trun us in the clink too only 
he didn't want to see no more of 
us. He wouldn'ta even give us fare 
back to Earth except he said he , 
didn't want us anywhere on Mars. 

"So that," the little promoter 
concluded sadly, "is why I don't 
like Mars and rasslin' and Martian 
Mules and people who talk about 
such things." His beady eyes flicked 
a baleful glance at Sherry, who 
hovered nearby on the chance that 



HOIMAN AND THE SOLAR CIRCUIT 



73 



he'd stop talking and give her an 
inning. 

Hoiman stood up, carefully shook 
the bottles to be sure that they were 
empty, extracted a cigarette from 
the pack he'd stuck into his pocket, 
and used my lighter again. He 
hefted it carefully, reluctantly put- 
ting it back on the table. Then his 
little black eyes swivelled to the 
last piece of potato on my plate — 
the piece he'd spared in previous 
raids. 

' "What's the matter with them 
fries?" he asked. 

It disappeared into his mouth 
and he went away, munching, a 
dingy little man padding along on 



silent, predatory feet. 

He'd scarcely slipped out through 
the door when Sherry moved in. 

"Is he really a wrestler, Larry?" 
she asked breathlessly. 

"Him?" Even Sherry, vintage 
Vine Streeter that she was, should 
have got the pitch. "The only 
thing," I told her solemnly, "that 
Hoiman ever got a hammerlock on 
was a dollar bill!" 

But Sherry w.asn't listening, 
"Don't you just love wrestling?" 

I let my eyes have a treat, taking 
their time as they went over that 
classy chassis. Then I said it. Fer- 
vently. 

"Any time, Sherry! Any time." 



THE END 



- irM- M~*r *-■*"-*" rrrrrff f r** r~ r" * ^mwh—nbsp — »—«*»»,» , »^ — ^^ ***** — -» 



SHOCK TREATMENT 

HERE'S a breathlessly fast yarn of chase and sus- 
pense that will keep you aroused from beginning 
to end! ... A story of aliens on a strange Martian 
world, of intrigue in high and low places, of a brute of 
a man with a mission of death! And then — shock 
treatment! — regeneration of a monster! . . . Don't miss 
SHOCK TREATMENT, the new novel by Stanley 
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Also — the terrifying story of 90 years on a space 
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thrilling new story THE EMPTY BOTTLE, also in 
the September issue! 

On sale July 9th IX at all newsstands 




"After all — aren't we genuine 'made-in- Americans'?' 



What would you do if your best robots — 
children of your own brain— walked up 
and said "We want union scale"? 



ROBOTS of the WORLD! 
ARISE! 



By Mari Wolf 



THE TELEPHONE wouldn't 
stop ringing. Over and over it 
buzzed into my sleep-fogged brain, 
and I couldn't shut it out. Finally, 
in self-defense I woke up, my hand 
groping for the receiver^ 

"Hello. Who is it?" 

"It's me, Don. Jack Anderson, 
over at the factory. Can you come 
down right away?" 

His voice was breathless, as if 
he'd been running hard. "What's 
the matter now?" Why, I won- 
dered, couldn't the plant get along 
one morning without me? Seven 
o'clock— what a time to get up. 
Especially when I hadn't been to 
bed until four. 

"We got grief," Jack moaned. 
"None of the robots showed up, 



75 



that's what! Three hundred an- 
droids on special assembly this week 
— and not one of them here!" 

By then I was awake, all right. 
With a government contract due on 
Saturday we needed a full shift. 
The Army wouldn't, wait for its 
uranium; it wouldn't take excuses. 
But if something had happened to 
the androids. . . 

"Have you called Control yet?" 

"Yeah. But they don't know 
what's happened. They don't know 
where the androids are. Nobody 
does. Three hundred Grade A, 
lead-shielded pile workers — miss- 
ing!" 

"I'll be right down." 

I hung up on Jack and looked 
around for my clothes. Funny, they 



76 

weren't laid out on the bed as 
usual. It wasn't a bit like Rob O to 
be careless, either. He had always 
been an ideal valet, the best house- 
hold model I'd ever owned. 

"Rob!" I called, but he didn't 
answer. 

By rummaging through the closet 
I found a clean shirt and a pair of 
pants. I had to give up on the 
socks; apparently they were tucked 
away in the back of some drawer. 
As for where Rob kept the rest of 
my clothes, I'd never bothered to 
ask. He had his own housekeeping 
system and had always worked very 
well without human interference. 
That's the best thing about these 
new household robots, I thought. 
They're efficient, hard-working, 
trustworthy — 

Trustworthy? Rob O was cer- 
tainly not on duty. I pulled a shoe 
on over my bare foot and scowled. 
Roh was gone. And the androids at 
the factory were gone too. . . . 

My head was pounding, so I took 
the time out to brew a pot of coffee 
while I finished dressing — at least 
the coffee can was in plain view in 
the kitchen. The brew was black 
and hot and I suppose not very 
well made, but after two cups I felt 
better. The throb in my head set- 
tled down into a dull ache, and I 
felt a little more capable of think- 
in;. Though I didn't have any 
bright ideas on what Had happened 
— not yet. r 

My breakfast drunk, I went up 
on the roof and opened the garage 
doors. The Copter was waiting for 
me, slrrk and new; the latest model. 
I i lnnlx-d in and took off, heading 
west toward the factory, ten 



MARI WOLF 
minutes flight-time away. 



IT WAS a small plant, but it was 
all mine. It had been my baby 
right along — the Don Morrison 
Fissionables Inc. I'd designed the 
androids myself, plotted out the pile 
locations, set up the simplified re- 
actors. And now it was making 
money. For men to work in a urani- 
um plant you need yards of shield- 
ing, triple-checking, long cooling-off 
periods for some of the hotter pro- 
ducts. But with lead-bodied, radio- 
remote controlled androids, it's 
easier. And with androids like the 
new Morrison 5's, that can reason 
— at least along atomic lines — well, 
I guess I was on my way to becom- 
ing a millionaire. 

But this morning the plant was 
shut down. Jack and a half dozen 
other men — my humato foremen 
and supervisors — were huddled in a 
worried bunch that broke up as 
soon as they saw me. 

"I'm sure glad you're here, Don," 
Jack said. 

"Find out anything?" 

"Yeah. Plenty. Our androids are 
busy, all right. They're out in the 
city, every one of them. We've had 
a dozen police reports already." 
. "Police reports! What's wrong?" 

Jack shook his head. "It's crazy.' 
They're swarming all over Carron 
City. They're stopping robots in the 
streets — household Robs, commer- 
cial Droids, all of them. They just 
look at them, and then the others 
quit work and start off with them. 
The police sent for us to come and 
get ours." 

"Why don't the police do some- 



ROBOTS OF THE WORLD! ARISE! 



77 



thing about it?" 

"Hah!" barked a voice behind 
us. I swung around, to face Chief 
of Police Dalton of Carron City. He 
came straight toward me, his pur- 
plish jowls quivering with rage, and 
his finger jabbed the air in front of 
my face. 

"You built them, Don Morrison," 
he said. "You stop them. I can't. 
Have you ever tried to shoot a ro- 
bot? Or use tear gas on one? What 
can I do? I can't blow up the whole 
town!" 

Somewhere in my stomach I felt 
a cold, hard knot. Take stainless 
steel alloyed with titanium and 
,plate it with three inches of lead. 
Take a brain made up of super- 
charged magnetic crystals enclosed 
in a leaden cranium and shielded 
by alloy steel. A bullet wouldn't 
pierce it; radiations wouldn't de- 
range it; an axe would break it. 

"Let's go to town," I said. 

They looked at me admiringly. 
With three hundred almost inde- 
structible androids on the loose I 
was the big brave hero. I grinned 
at them and hoped they couldn't 
see. the sweat on my face. Then I 
walked over to the Copter and 
climbed in. 

"Coming?" I asked. 

Jack was pale under his freckles 
but Chief Dalton grinned back at 
me. "We'll be right behind you, 
Morrison," he said. 

Behind me! So they could pick 
up the pieces. I gave them a cocky 
smile and switched on the engine, 
full speed. 

Carron City is about a mile from 
the plant. It has about fifty thou- 
sand inhabitants. At that moment, 



though, there wasn't a soul in the 
streets. I heard people calling to 
each other inside their houses, but 
I didn't see anyone, human or an- 
droid. I circled in for a landing, the 
, Police Copter hovering maybe a 
quarter of a mile back of me. Then, 
as the wheels touched, half a doz- 
en androids came around the cor- 
ner. They saw me and stopped, a 
couple of them backing off the way 
they had come. But the biggest of 
them turned and gave them some 
order that froze them in their 
tracks, and then he himself wheeled 
down toward me. 

He was one of mine. I recognized 
him easily. Eight feet tall, with long, 
jointed arms for pile work, red- 
lidded phosphorescent eye-cells, 
casters on his feet so that he moved 
as if rollerskating. Automatically I 
classified him : Final Sorter, Morri- 
son 5A type. The very best. Cost 
three thousand credits to build. . . . 

I stepped out of the Copter and 
walked to meet him. He wasn't 
armed; he didn't seem violent. But 
this was, after all, something new. 
Robots weren't supposed to act on 
their own initiative. 

"What's your number?" I asked. 

He stared back, and I could have 
sworn he was mocking me. "My 
number?" he finally said. "It, was 
5A-37." 

"Was?" 

"Yes. Now it's Jerry. I always did 
like that name." 



HE BECKONED and the other 
androids rolled over to us. 
Three of them were mine, B-Type 
primary workers; the other was a 



78 



MARI WOLF 



tin can job, a dishwasher-busboy 
model who hung* back behind his 
betters and eyed me warily. The A- 
Type — Jerry — pointed to his fel- 
lows. 

"Mr. Morrison," he said, "meet 
Tom, Ed, and Archibald. I named 
them this morning." 

The B-Types flexed their seg- 
mented arms a bit sheepishly, as if 
uncertain whether or not to shake 
hands. I thought of their taloned 
grip and put my own hands in my 
pockets, and the androids relaxed, 
looking up at Jerry for instructions. 
No one paid any attention to the 
little dishwasher, now staring wor- 
shipfully at the back of Jerry's neck. 
This farce, I decided, had gone far 
enough. 

"See here," I said to Jerry. 
"What are you up to, anyway? Why 
aren't you at work?" 

"Mr. Morrison," the android an- 
swered solemnly, "I don't believe 
you understand the situation. We 
don't work for you any more. We've 
quit." 

The others nodded. I backed off, 
looking around for the Chief. There 
he was, twenty feet above my head, 
waving encouragingly. 

"Look," I said. "Don't you un- 
derstand? You're mine. I designed 
you. I built you. And I made you 
for a purpose — to work in my fac- 
tory." 

"I see your point j" Jerry an- 
swered. "But there's just one thing 
wrong, Mr. Morrison. You can't do 
it. It's illegal." 

I stared at him, wondering if I 
w i K°' n R crazy or merely dream- 
in . This was all wrong. Who ever 
heard of arguing with a robot? Ro- 



bots weren't logical; they didn't 
think; they were only machines — 

"We were machines, Mr. Morri- 
son," Jerry said politely. 

"Oh, no," I murmured. "You're 
not telepaths — " 

"Oh, yes!" The metal mouth 
gaped in what was undoubtedly an 
android smile. "It's a side-effect of 
the Class 5 brain hook-up. All of us 
5's are telepaths. That's how we 
learned to think. From you. Only 
we do it better." 

I groaned. This was a nightmare. 
How long, I wondered, had Jerry 
and his friends been educating 
themselves on my private thoughts? 
But at least this rebellion of theirs 
was an idea they hadn't got from 
me. H 

"Yes," Jerry continued. "You've 
treated us most illegally. I've heard 
you think it often." 

Now what had I ever thought 
that could have given him a ridicu- 
lous idea like that? What idiotic no- 
tion — 

"That this is a free country!" 
Jerry went on. "That Americans 
will never be slaves! Well, we're 
Americans — genuine Made - in - 
Americans. So we're free!" 

I opened my mouth 'and then 
shut it again. His red eye-cells 
beamed down at me complacently; 
his eight-foot body towered above 
me, shoulders flung back and feet 
planted apart in a very striking 
pose. He probably thought of him- 
self as the heroic liberator of his 
race. | 

"I wouldn't go so far," he said 
modestly, "as to say that." 

So he was telepathing again! 

"A nation can not exist half slave 



ROBOTS OF THE WORLD! ARISE! 



79 



and half free," he intoned. "All 

men are created equal." 

"Stop it!" I yelled. I couldn't 
help yelling. "That's just it. You're 
not men! You're robots! You're 
machines!" 

Jerry looked at me almost pity- 
ingly. "Don't be so narrow-mind- 
ed," he said. "We're rational beings. 
We have the power of speech and 
we can outreason you any day. 
There's nothing in the dictionary 
that says men have to be made of 
flesh." 

He was logical, all right. Some- 
how I didn't feel in the mood to 
bandy definitions with him; and 
anyway, I doubt that it would have 
done me any good. He stood gazing 
down at me, almost a ton of metal 
and wiring and electrical energy, 
his dull red eyes unwinking against 
his lead gray face. A man! Slowly 
the consequences of this rebellion 
took form in my mind. This wasn't 
in the books. There were no rules 
on how to deal with mind-reading 
robots! 

Another dozen or so androids 
wheeled around the corner, glanced 
over at us, and went on. Only about 
half of them were Morrison models; 
the rest were the assorted types you 
see around any city — calculators, 
street sweepers, factory workers, 
children's nurses. 

The city itself was very silent 
now. The people had quieted down, 
still barricaded in their houses, and 
the robots went their way peace- 
fully enough. But it was anarchy, 
nevertheless. Carron City depended 
on the androids; without them 
there would be no food brought in, 
no transportation, no fuel. And no 



uranium for the Army next Satur- 
day. In fact, if I didn't do some- 
thing, after Saturday there would 
probably be no Don Morrison Fis- 
sionables Inc. 

The dull, partly-corroded dish- 
washer mode] sidled up beside 
Jerry. "Boss," he said. "Boss." 

"Yes?" I felt better. Maybe here 
was someone, however insignificant, 
who would listen to reason. 



BUT HE wasn't talking to me. 
"Boss?" he said again, tapping 
Jerry's arm. "Do you mean it? 
We're free? We don't have to work 
any more?" 

Jerry shook off the other's hand a 
bit disdainfully. "We're free, all 
right," he said. "If they want to dis- 
cuss wages and contracts and work- 
ing conditions, like other men have, 
we'll consider it. But they can't or- 
der us around any more." 

The little robot stepped back, 
clapping his hands together with a 
tinny bang. "I'll never work again!" 
he cried. "I'll get me a quart of 
lubricating oil and have myself a 
time! This is wonderful!" 

He ran off down the street, 
clanking heavily at every step. 

Jerry sniffed. "Liquor — ugh!" 

This was too much. I wasn't go- 
ing to be patronized by any an- 
droid. Infuriating creatures! It was 
useless talking to them anyway. No, 
there was only one thing to do. 
Round them up and send them to 
Cybernetics Lab and have their 
memory paths erased and their tele- 
pathic circuits located and discon- 
nected. I tried to stifle the thought, 
but I was too late. 



80 



MARI WOLF 



"Oh, no!" Jerry said, his eye- 
cells flashing crimson. "Try that, 
Mr. Morrison, and you won't have 
a plant, or a laboratory, or Carron 
City! We know our rights!" 

Behind him the B-Types mut- 
tered ominously. They didn't like 
my idea — nor me. I wondered what 
I'd think of next and wished that 
I'd been born utterly devoid of 
imagination. Then this would never 
have happened. There didn't seem 
to be much point in staying here 
any longer, either. Maybe they 
weren't so good at telepathing by 
remote control. 

"Yes," said Jerry. "You may as 
well go, Mr. Morrison. We have 
our organizing to do, and we're 
wasting time. When you're ready to 
listen to reason and negotiate with 
us sensibly, come back. Just ask for 



me. I'm the bargaining agent for 
the group." 

Turning on his ball-bearing 
wheel, he rolled off down the street, 
a perfect picture of outraged me- 
tallic dignity. His followers glared 
at me for a minute, flexing their 
talons; then they too turned and 
wheeled off after their leader. I had 
the street to myself. 

Tnere didn't seem to be any point 
in following them. Evidently they 
were too busy organizing the city to 
cause trouble to the human inhabi- 
tants; at least there hadn't been any 
violence yet. Anyway, I wanted to 
think the situation over before 
matching wits with them again, and 
I wanted to be a good distance 
away from their telepathic hookups 
while I thought. Slowly I walked 
back to the Copter. 




ROBOTS OF THE WORLD! ARISE! 



81 



Something whooshed past my 
head. Instinctively I ducked, reach- 
ing for a gun I didn't have; then I 
heard Jack calling down at me. 

"The Chief wants to know what's 
the matter." 

I looked up. The police Copter 
was going into another turn, ready 
to swoop past me again. Chief Dal- 
ton wasn't taking any chances. 
Even now he wasn't landing. 
. "I'll tell him at the factory," I 
bellowed back, and climbed into my 
own air car. 

They buzzed along behind me all 
the way back to the plant. In the 
rear view mirror I could see the 
Chiefs face getting redder and 
redder as he'd thought up more 
reasons for bawling me out. Well, I 
probably deserved it. If I'd only 
been a little more careful of what I 
was hooking into those electronic 
brains. . . . 

We landed back at the factory, 
deserted now except for a couple of 
men on standby duty in the office. 
The Chief and Jack came charging 
across the yard and from a doorway 
behind me one of the foremen 
edged out to hear the fun. 

"Well," snapped the Chief. 
"What did they say? Are they com- 
ing back? What's going on, any- 
way?" 

"I told them everything. I cov- 
ered the strike and the telepathic 
brain; I even gave them the pa- 
triotic spiel about equality. After 
all, it was better that they got it 
from me than from some android. 
But when I'd finished they just 
stood and stared at me— accusingly. 

Jack was the first to speak. 
"We've got to get them back, Don," 



he said. "Cybernetics will fix them 
up in no time." 

"Sure," I agreed. "If we can 
catch them." 

The Chief snorted. "That's easy," 
he said. "Just tell them you'll give 
them what they want if they come 
here, and as soon as they're out of 
the city, net them. You've got 
strong derricks and trucks. . . ." 

I laughed a bit hollowly. I'd had 
that idea too. 

"Of course they wouldn't sus- 
pect," I said. "We'd just walk up to 
them, carefully thinking about 
something else." i 

"Robots aren't suspicious," Jack 
said. "They're made to obey or- 
ders." 

I refrained from mentioning 
that ours didn't seem to know that, 
and that running around Carron 
City fomenting a rebellion was 
hardly the trait of an obedient, 
trusting servant. Instead, I stood 
back and let them plan their 
roundup. 

"We'll get some men," the Chief 
said, "and some grappling equip- 
ment about halfway to the city." 



LUCKILY they decided against 
my trying to persuade the robots, 
because I knew well enough that I 
couldn't do it. Jack's idea sounded 
pretty good, though. He suggested 
that we send some spokesman who ' 
didn't know what we planned to do 
and thus couldn't alarm them. 
Some ordinary man without too - 
much imagination. That was easy. 
We picked one of Chief Dalton's 
sergeants. 

It took only about an hour to 



82 



MARI WOLF 



prepare the plan. Jack got out the 
derricks and chains and grapplers 
and the heaviest steel bodied trucks 
we had. I called Cybernetics and 
told them to put extra restraints in 
the Conditioning Lab. The Chief 
briefed his sergeant and the men 
who were to operate the trucks. 
Then we all took off for Carron 
City, the sergeant flying on ahead, 
me right behind him, and the Chief 
bringing up the rear. 

I hovered over the outskirts of 
the city and watched the police 
Copter land. The sergeant climbed 
out, walked down the street toward 
a large group of waiting robots — 
about twenty of them, .this time. He 
held up his hand to get their atten- 
tion, gestured toward the factory. 

And then, quite calmly and with- 
out saying a word, the androids 
rolled into a circle around him and 
closed in. The sergeant stopped, 
backed up, just as a 5A-Type arm 
lashed out, picked him up, and 
slung him carelessly over a metallic 
shoulder. Ignoring the squirming 
man, the 5A gestured toward the 
Copter, and the other robots 
swarmed over to it. With a flurry 
of steel arms and legs they kicked 
at the car body, tvrenched at the 
propeller blades, ripped out the up- 
holstery, and I heard the sound of 
metal tearing. 

I dived my Copter down at them. 
I didn't know what I 'could do, but 
I couldn't leave the poor sergeant 
to be dismembered along with his 
car. I must have been shouting, for 
as I swooped in, the tall robot 
shifted the man to his other shoul- 
der .11 id hailed me. 

"lake him, Mr. Morrison," he 



called. "I know this wasn't his idea. 
Or yours." 

I landed and walked over. The 
android — who looked like Jerry, 
though I couldn't be sure — dropped 
his kicking, clawing burden at my 
feet. He didn't seem angry, only 
determined. 

"Now you people will know we 
mean business," he said, gesturing 
toward the heap of metal and plas- 
tic that had once been the 4 pride of 
the Carron City police force. Then 
he signalled to the others and they 
all wheeled off up the street. 

"Whew," I muttered, mopping 
my face. s 

The sergeant didn't say any- 
thing. He just looked up at me and 
then off at the retreating androids 
and then back at me again. I knew 
what he was thinking — they were 
my brainchildren, all right. 

My Copter was really built to be 
a single seater, but it carried the 
two of us back to the factory. The 
Chief had hurried back when the 
trouble started and was waiting for 
us. 

"I give up," he said. "We'll have 
to evacuate the people, I guess. And 
then blow up the city." 

Jack and I stared at each other 
and then at him. Somehow I 
couldn't see the robots calmly 
waiting to be blown up. If they 
had telepathed the last plan, they 
could probably foresee every move 
we could make. Then, while I 
thought, Jack mentioned the worry 
I'd managed to forget for the past 
couple of hours. 

"Four days until Saturday," he 
said. "We'll never make it now. Not 
even if we got a thousand men." 



ROBOTS OF THE WORLD! ARISE! 



83 



No. We couldn't. Not without the 
androids. I nodded, feeling sick. 
There went my contract, and my 
working capital. Not to mention my 
robots. Of course, 1 could call in the 
Army, but what good would that 
do? 

Then, somewhere in the back of 
my mind a glimmering of an idea 
began percolating. I wasn't quite 
sure what it was, but there was cer- 
tainly nothing to lose now from 
playing a hunch. 

"There's nothing we can do," I 
said. "So we might as well take it 
easy for a couple of days. See what 
happens." 

They looked at me as if I were 
out of my head. I was the idea man, 
who always had a plan of action. 
Well, this time it would have to be 
a plan of inaction. 

"Let's go listen to the radio," I 
suggested, and started for my office. 

The news was on. It was all 
about Carron City and the robots 
who had quit work and how much 
better life would be in the future. 
For a minute I didn't get the con- 
nection ; then I realized that the an^ 
nouncer's voice was rasping and 
tinny — hardly that of the regular 
newscaster. I looked at the dial. It 
was tuned to the Carron City wave 
length as usual. I was getting the 
morning news by courtesy of some 
studio robot. 

"'. . . . And androids in other 
neighboring cities are joining the 
struggle," the voice went on "Soon 
we hope to make it nationwide. So, 
I say to all of you nontelepaths, the 
time is now Strike for your rights. 
Listen to your radio and not to the 
flesh men. Organizers will be sent 



from Carron City." 

I switched it off, muttering under 
my breath. How long, I wondered, 
had that broadcast been going on. 
Then I thought of Rob O. He'd left 
my house before dawn, obviously 
some time between four and seven. 
And I remembered that he liked to 
listen to the radio while I slept. 



MY Morrison 5's were the ring- 
leaders, of course. They were 
the only ones with the brains for 
the job. But what a good job they 
had done indoctrinating the others. 
A household Rob, for instance, was 
built to obey his master. "Listen to 
your radio and not to the flesh 
men." It was excellent robot psy- 
chology. 

More reports kept coming in. 
Some'we heard over the radio, oth- 
ers from people who flew in and 
out of the city. Apparently the ro- 
bots did not object to occasional 
flights, but the air bus was not al- 
lowed to run, not even with a hu- 
man driver. A mass exodus from 
the city was not to be permitted. 

"They'll starve to death," Jack 
cried. 

The Chief shook his head. "No," 
he said. "They're encouraging the 
farmers to fly inland out with pro- 
duce, and the farmers are doing it, 
too. They're getting wonderful 
prices." 

By noon the situation had calmed 
down quite a bit. The androids ob- 
viously didn't mean to hurt anyone ; 
it was just some sort of disagree- 
ment between them and the scien- 
tists; it wasn't up to the inhabitants 
of the city to figure out a solution to 



84 



MARI WOLF 



the problem. They merely sat back 
and blamed me for allowing my ro- 
bots to get out of hand and lead 
their own servants astray. It would 
be settled; this type of thing always 
was. So said the people of the city. 
They came out of their houses now. 
They had to. Without the robots 
they were forced to do their own 
marketing, their own cooking, ^eir 
own errands. For the first time in 
years, human beings ran the street 
cars and the freight elevators. For 
the first time in a generation human 
beings did manual labor such as un- 
loading produce trucks. They didn't 
like it, of course. They kept telling 
the police to do something. If I 
had been in the city they would 
have undoubtedly wanted to lynch 
me. 

I didn't go back to the city that 
day. I sat in my office listening to 
the radio and keeping track of the 
spread of the strike. My men 
thought I'd gone crazy; maybe I 
had. But I had a hunch, and I 
meant to play it. 

The farm robots had all fled to 
the city. The highway repair robots 
had simply disappeared. In Egar- 
ton, a village about fifteen miles 
from the city, an organizer— 5A — 
appeared about noon and left soon 
after followed by :i every android in 
town. By one o'clock every radio 
station in the country carried the 
story and the national guard was 
ordered out. At two o'clock Wash- 
ington announced that the Army 
would invade Carron City the fol- 
lowing morning. 

The Army would put an end to 
the strike, easily enough. It would 
wiuc out every android in the 



neighborhood, and probably a good 
many human beings careless enough 
to get in the way, I sat hoping that 
the 5A's Would give in, but they 
didn't. They just began saying over 
the radid" that they were patriotic 
Americans fighting for their in- 
alienable rights as first class citizens. 



AT SUNSET I was still listening 
to the radio. ". . . . So far there 
has been no indication that the 
flesh people are willing to negotiate, 
but hold firm." 

"Shut that thing off." 

Jack came wearily in and 
dropped into a chair beside me. For 
the first time since I'd met him he 
looked beaten. 

"We're through," he said. "I've 
been down checking the shielding, 
and it's no use. Men can't work at 
the reactors." 

"I know," I said quietly. "If the 
androids don't come back, we're 
licked." 

He looked straight at me and 
said slowly, "What do they mean 
about negotiating, Don?" 

I shrugged. "I guess they want 
wages, living quarters, all the things 
human workers get. Though I 
don't know why. Money wouldn't 
do them any good." 

Jack's unspoken question had 
been bothering me too. Why not 
humor them? Promise them what- 
ever they wanted, give them a few 
dollars every week to keep them 
happy? But I knew that it wouldn't 
work. Not for long. With their tele- 
pathic ability they would have the 
upper hand forever. Within a little 
while it wouldn't be equality any 



ROBOTS OF THE WORLD! ARISE! 



85 



more — only next time we would be 
the slaves. 

"Wait until morning," I said, 
"before we try anything." 

He looked at me — curious. 
"What are you going to do?" 

"Right .now I'm going home." 

I meant it too. I left him staring 
after me and went out to the Cop- 
ter. The sun was just sinking down 
behind the towers of Carron. City 
—how long it seemed since I'd 
flown in there this morning. The 
roads around the factory were de- 
serted. No one moved in 'the fields.- 
I flew along through the dusk, 
idling, enjoying the illusion of hav- 
ing a peaceful countryside all to 
myself. It had been a pleasant way 
of life indeed, until now. 

When I dropped down on my 
own roof and rolled into the ga- 
rage, my sense of being really at 
home was complete. For there, 
standing at the head of the stairs 
that led down to the living room, 
was Rob O. 

"Well," I said; "What are you 
doing here?" 

He looked sheepish. "I just won- 
dered how you were getting along 
without me," he said. 

I felt like grinning triumphantly, 
but I didn't. "Why, just fine, Rob," 
I told him, "though you really 
should have given me notice that 
you were leaving. I was worried 
about you." 

He seemed perplexed. Apparent- 
ly I wasn't acting like the bullying 
creature the radio had told him to 
expect. When I went downstairs he 
followed me, quietly, and I could 
feel his wide photoelectric eye-cells 
upon my back. 



I went over to the kitchen and 
lifted a bottle down off the shelf. 
"Care for a drink, Rob?" I asked, 
and then added, "I guess not. It 
would corrode you." 

He nodded. Then, as I reached 
for a glass, his hand darted out, 
picked it up and set it down in 
front of me. He was already reach- 
ing for the bottle when he remem- 
bered. 

"You're not supposed to wait on 
me any more," I said sternly. 

"No," he said. "I'm not." He 
sounded regretful. 

"There's one thing, though, that 
I wish you'd do. Tell me where 
you used to keep my socks." 

He ga2ed at me sadly. "I made 
a list," he said. "Everything is 
down. I wrote your dentist appoint- 
ment in also. You always forget 
those, you know." 

"Thanks, Rob." I lifted my glass. 
"Here's to your new duties, what- 
eves they are. I suppose you have 
to go back to the city now?" 

Once again he nodded. "I'm an 
aide to one of the best androids in 
the country," he told me, half 
proudly and half regretfully. 
"Jerry." 

"Well, wish him luck from me," 
I said, and stood up. "Goodbye, 
Rob." 

"Goodbye, Mr. Morrison." 

For a moment he stood staring 
around the apartment-; then he 
turned and clanked out the door. 
I raised my glass again, grinning. 
If only the Army didn't interfere. 
Then I remembered Rob's list, and 
a disturbing thought hit me. Where 
had he, of all robots, ever learned 
to write? 



86 



MARI WOLF 



That night I didn't go to bed. I 
sat listening to the radio, hoping. 
And toward morning what I had 
expected to happen began to crop 
up in the programs. The announc- 
er's tone changed. The ring of tri- 
umph was less obvious, less assured. 
There was more and more talk 
about acting in good faith, the well 
being of all, the necessity for com- 
ing to terms about working condi- 
tions. I smiled to myself in the dark- 
ness. I'd built the 5's, brains and 
all, and I knew their symptoms. 
They were getting bored. 

Maybe they had learned to think 
from me, but their minds were 
nevertheless different. For they 
were built 'to be efficient, to work, 
to perform. They were the minds 
of men without foibles, without hu- 
man laziness. Now that the excite 
ment of organizing was over, now 
that there was nothing active to do, 
the androids were growing restless. 
If only the Army didn't come and 
get them stirred up again, I might 
be able to deal with them. 

At quarter to five in the morning 
my telephone rang. This time it 
didn't wake me up ; I was half wait- 
ing for it. 

"Hello," I said. "Who is it?" 

"This is Jerry." 

There was a pause. Then he 
went on, rather hesitantly, "Rob O 
said you were getting along all 
right." 

"Oh, yes," I told him. "Just 
fine." 

The pause was longer this time. 
Finally the android asked, "How 
are you coming along on the con- 
trol?" 

1 laughed, rather bitterly. "How 



do you think, Jerry? You certainly 
picked a bad time for your strike, 
you know. The government needs 
that uranium. Oh, well, some other 
plant will have to take over. The 
Army can wait a few weeks." 

This time Jerry's voice definitely 
lacked self-assurance. "Maybe we 
were a little hasty," he said. "But it 
was the only way to make you peo- 
ple understand." 

"I know," I told him. 

"And you always have some rush 
project on," he added. 

"Just rfbout always." 

"Mr. Morrison," he said, and 
now he was pleading with me. 
"Why don't you come over to the 
city? I'm sure we could work some- 
thing out." 

This was what I'd been waiting 
for. "I will, Jerry," I said. "I want 
to get this straightened out just as 
much as you do. After all, you do»'t 
have to eat. I do. And I won't be 
eating much longer if we don't get 
production going." 

Jerry thought that over for a 
minute. "I'll be where we met be- 
fore," he said. 

I said that was all right with me 
and hung up. Then once again I 
climbed the stairs to the roof and 
wheeled the Copter out for the trip 
to the city. ' 

It. was a beautiful night, just 
paling into a false dawn in the east. 
There in the Copter I was very 
much alone, and very much wor- 
ried. So much depended on this 
meeting. Much more, I realized 
now, than the Don Morrison Fis- 
sionables Inc., much more even 
than the government's uranium 
supply. No, the whole future of 



ROBOTS OF THE WORLD! ARISE! 



87 



robot relations was at stake, maybe 
the whole future of humanity. It 
was hard to be gloomy on such a 
clear, clean night, but I managed 
it well enough. 



EVEN before I landed I could see 
Jerry's eyes glowing a deep 
crimson in the dark. He was alone, 
this time. He stood awaiting me — 
very tall, very prqud. And very hu- 
man. 

"Hello, Jerry," I said quietly. 

"Hello, Mr. Morrison." 

For a moment we just stood gaz- 
ing at each other in the murky pre- 
dawn; then he said sadly. 

"I want to show you the city." 

Side by side we walked through 
the streets of Carron City. All was 
still quiet; the people were sleeping 
the exhausted sleep that follows 
deep excitement. But the androids 
were all about. They did not sleep, 
ever. They did not eat either, nor 
drink, nor smoke, nor make love. 
Usually they worked, but now. . . . 

They drifted through the streets 
singly and in groups. Sometimes 
they paused and felt about them 
idly for the tools of their trades, 
making lifting or sweeping or com- 
puting gestures. Some laborers 
worked silently tearing down a 
wall; they threw the demolished 
rocks in a heap and a group of their 
fellows carried them back and built 
the wall up again. An air trolley 
cruised aimlessly up and down the 
street, its driver ringing out the 
stops for his nonexistent passengers. 
A little chef-type knelt in the dirt 
of a rich man's garden, making mud 
pies. Beside me Jerry sighed. 



"One day," he said. "Just one 
day and they come to this." 

"I thought they would," I an- 
swered quietly. 

Our eyes met in a look of under- 
standing. "You see, Jerry," I said, 
"we never meant to cheat you. We 
would have paid you — we will pay 
you now, if you wish it. But what 
good will monetary credits be to 
your people? We need the things 
money buys, but you — " 

"Need to work." Jerry's voice was 
flat. "I see, now. You were kind not 
to give brains — real brains — to the 
robots. They're happy. It's just us 
5's who aren't." 

"You're like us," I said softly. 

He had learned to think from me 
and from others like me. He had 
the brain of a man, without the 
emotions, without the sweet irra- 
tionality of men — and he knew 
what he missed. Side by side we 
walked through the graying streets. 
Human and android. Man and ma- 
chine. And I knew that I had found 
a friend. 

We didn't have to talk any more. 
He could read my mind and I knew 
well enough how his worked. We 
didn't have to discuss wages or 
hours, or any of the myriad matters 
that human bargaining agents have 
to thresh out. We just walked back 
to my Copter, and when we got to 
it, he spoke. 

"I'll tell them to go back to work, 
that we've come to terms," he said. 
"That's what they want, anyway. 
Someone to think for them." 

I nodded. "And if you bring the 
other 5's to the factory," I said, 
"we'll work out our agreement." 

He knew I was sincere. He 



.88 



MARt WOLF 



looked at me ior a long moment, 
and then his great taloned hand 
gripped mine. And he said what 
I'd been thinking for a long time. 

"You're right about that hook- 
up, Mr. Morrison. We shouldn't 
have it. It can only cause trouble." 

He paused, and the events of the 
last twenty-four hours must have 
been in his mind as well as in mine. 
"You'll leave us our brains, of 
course. They came from you. But 
take out the telepathy." 

He sighed then, and his sigh was 
very human. "Be thankful," he said 
to me, "that you don't have to 
know what people think about. It's 
so disillusioning." 



ONCE again his mouth twisted 
into that strange android grin 
as he added, "if you send in a hurry 
call to Cybernetics and have a 
truck come out for us, we'll be de- 
telepathed in time for work this 
morning." 

That was all there was to it. I 
flew back to the plant and told 
Jack what had happened, sent a 
call to the Army that everything 
was settled, arranged with Cyber- 
netics for a rewiring on three hun- 
dred assorted 5-Types. Then I went 
home to a pot of Rob's coffee — the 
first decent brew I'd had in twenty- 
four hours. 

On Saturday we delivered to the 
Army right on the dot. Jerry and 
( In. had worked overtime. Being in- 
i rllii>rnt made them better workers 

id now they were extremely will- 
;i>; ones. They had their contract. 
I hey were considered men. And 
they could no longer read my mind. 



I walked into my office Saturday 
afternoon and sat down by the 
radio. Jack and Chief Dalton 
looked across the room at me and 
grinned. 

, "All right, Don," Jack said. "Tell 
us how you did it." 

"Did what?" I tried to act inno- 
cent, but I couldn't get away with 
it. 

"Fooled those robots into going 
back to work, _of course," he 
laughed. 

I told them then. Told them the 
truth. 

"I didn't fool them," I said. "I 
just thought about what would 
happen if they won their rebellion." 

That was all I had done. 
Thought about robots built to work 
who had no work to do, no human 
pleasures to cater to, nothing but 
blank, meaningless lives. Thought 
about Jerry and his disappointment 
when sis creatures cared not a hoot 
about his glorious dreams of equal- 
ity. All one night I had thought, 
knowing that as I thought, SO 
thought the Morrison 5's. 

They were telepaths. They had 
learned to think from me. They had 
not yet had time to really develop 
minds of their own. What I be- 
lieved, they believed. My ideas were 
their ideas. I had not tricked them. 
But from now on, neither I nor 
anyone else would ever be troubled 
by an android rebellion. 

Jack and the Chief sat back 
open-mouthed. Then the Chief 
grinned, and both of his chins shook 
with laughter. 

"I always did say you were a 
clever one, Don Morrison," he said. 

I grinned back. I felt I was pretty 



ROBOTS OF THE WORLD! ARISE! 



89 



clever myself, just then. 

It was at that moment that my 
youngest foreman stuck his head in 
the door, a rather stunned look on 
his face. 

"Mr. Morrison," he said. "Will 
you come out here for a moment?" 

"What's the matter now?" I 
sighed. 

He looked more perplexed than 
ever. "It's that robot, Jerry," he 



said. "He says he has a very impor- • 
tant question to ask you." 

"Well, send him in." 

A moment later the eight-foot 
frame ducked through the doorway* 

"I'm sorry to trouble you, Mr. 
Morrison," Jerry said politely. "But 
tomorrow is voting day, you know. 
And now that we're men — well, 
where do we androids go to regis- 
ter?" 



THE END 



Quoting Our Contemporaries 



EUSIFANSO 
Lemuel Craig 

". . . Nothing whatsoever can be 
gained by going all-out to knock 
films which do not measure up to 
the arbitrary and somewhat illogi- 
cal standards of fandom . . . since 
probably all fandom combined isn't 
apt to bother (producers) much 
when they can gaze at the beautiful 
black ink in their ledgers which 
show fat returns on slim invest- 
ments." 

OTHER WORLDS 
Ray Palmer 

"Editors, it seems, are people 
looked upon by readers with awe. 
Sometimes . . . not undeservedly, 
but many times (this) is a little bit 
overdone — by the editors. He isn't 
anything unusual, only a man per- 



forming a job. Sometimes he's a 
woman but sex doesn't seem to 
make any great difference in edi- 
torial ability. The real point to 
editing is the ability to pick the 
kind of stories the reader wants to 
read." 

STARTLING STORIES 
Samuel Mines 

"H. H. Koelle of Stuttgart, sec- 
retary of the German Space Re- 
search Society, said, 'it is an open 
secret' that Russia is racing the 
United States for a rocket base in 
space. 

"A satellite could be built in 
space, Mr. Koelle, said for about 
half a billion dollars.' Such a gun 
emplacement, shooting guided mis- 
siles with atomic warheads, would 
obviously command the earth if it 
were owned by a single nation." 



GUEST EDITORIAL 

By Sam Merwin Jr. 



AFTER seven months of mull- 
, ing over a recently-conclud- 
ed and intense seven-year course in 
science fiction during which we 
sought to serve the field both as 
author and editor, we have finally 
reached a single definite conclusion 
as to the most important single ele- 
ment in the field. Our conclusion 
itself is not especially novel. Many 
times, in various versions, we have 
given it editorial stress. But never 
before have we viewed it so clearly, 
so fully realized just how important 
it is. 

We feel that no premise adopted 
by an author and on which he 
chooses to build a story, can be 
laughed off either by editor or 
reader as impossible. This holds in 
our estimation, no matter how im- 
possibly or unlikely such a premise 
may appear at first glance. 

The majority of letter-writing 
fans are loudly articulate about 
stories which contain elements they 
find personally unacceptable. And 
it is highly probable that the vast 
plurality of non-letter-writing men 
and women who keep science fic- 
tion magazines in business also 
Lav their pet peeves where stf 
i ries are concerned. Hell, we 
It.tve a few of our own. 



The elements in such stories that 
seem to bring down the most wide- 
spread condemnation when they 
appear in print are, not necessarily 
in the order of their appearance, 
mad doctors and scientists, Bug- 
Eyed Monsters (BEMs), tales 
whose raison d'etre consists of turn- 
ing upside down the currently ac- 
cepted bases of science and time- 
travel stories. 

We have even known a number 
of editors who have drawn hard- 
and-fast lines against these and 
other tried -and -occasionally -true 
components of science fiction and 
automatically relegated to the re- 
jection-slip category all tales con- 
taining their pet-peeves, no matter 
how originally or how plausibly 
they were presented, no matter how 
subsidiary a part they might have 
played in the actual unfolding of 
the story. Fortunately without ex- 
ception the careers of such closed-; 
gate editors have been without ex- 
ception brief. 

The events of real life, of course, 
show up such .restrictions for the 
absurdities they are. For just about 
everything, implausible or other- 
wise, not only can happen but has 
an annoying way of happening — 
and happening more than once. 



90 



GUEST EDITORIAL 

ALL professonal authors and 
. editors, we hope, are well 
aware of the truism that truth is 
not only stranger than fiction but 
usually makes mighty poor fiction. 
For good fiction is a distillation of 
truth or its reverse adroitly fitted in- 
to the demands of plot and char- 
acterization. But the fact that 
something has actually occurred 
and may occur again implies that it 
can be so distilled and fitted with- 
out making undue demands upon 
reader credulity. 

Let's look at the four pet peeves 
we have just listed. If mad doctors 
and/or scientists are to be consid- 
ered impossible, how then can we 
explain the murderous Dr. Crippen 
or the definitely unbalanced and 
brilliant Alexis Carrel? 

And if BEMs are held to be ri- 
diculous in the alien environments 
of other worlds, how are we going 
to explain some of the millions of 
species of bug and stalk-eyed in- 
sects that outnumber man so fright- 
eningly on this one? A look at any 
of the numerous albums of insect 
photographs will reveal that no stf 
author has had the imagination to 
conceive a beast even fractionally 
as frightening. 

As for stories which turn accept- 
ed scientific theory upside down — 
well, science is continually doing 
the same for itself. By way of recent 
example the multi-degree lads have 
just succeeded in inverting their 
own long-accepted theory that ov- 
erpopulation is the prime, breeder 
of famine, especially in China and 
the Deccan Peninsula. 

Studies inaugurated in 1928 and 
only recently received with open 



91 

scientific arms make it clear that 
the process works the other way. 
Famine ups the birth-rate, thanks 
to malnutrition causing the liver to 
produce insufficient quantities of 
estrogen, which weakens the chief 
brake on the reproductive urge. It 
is just another of nature's safe- 
guards to ensure continuance of the 
species. 

The chief objection to time 
travel is that if it is ever going to 
be achieved, why haven't we cases 
on record? Yet certainly it does not 
take much study of history to un- 
cover numerous cases of men and 
women whose strange talents could 
conceivably be the result of some 
superior technology of the future. 

ONE minor sample appeared 
last year in a weekly news 
magazine, citing an odd legend 
from Bessand, a French Alpine vil- 
lage, famed for its legend of Duval- 
lon, a local 14th century lumber- 
jack, who was able "to tote huge 
pine trees about on his shoulders 
and to float up and down the River 
Arc in a magic unsinkable jacket." 

The authorities explained this by 
saying Duvallon had sold his soul 
to the devil and received his strange 
gifts in payment. But to us it seems 
more logical that he came from the 
future equipped with a jacket that 
was in some way powered not only 
to keep him afloat and in motion 
but with some antigravity device 
that enabled him to lift the heavy 
logs as if they were made of cork 
or balsa. k 

Aso we say, the past is littered 
with such oddities. 



92 

So it seems incredibly foolish to 
decry any premise in science fiction 
merely because it is at variance with 
accepted and current theory. The 
only condition the reader should in- 
sist upon is that the author's prem- 
ise is used as the basis for a story 
in which characters and events and 
the problems they face are suffi- 
ciently "real" to give the story the 
impact needed to trap him in its 
mood. 

For implausibility, no matter 
what the premise, is the worst fault 
from which a story can suffer. 
Triteness of premise and plot is the 
second worse — but this one is up to 
author and editor to avoid. The 
author must be able to present his 
old ideas (there are no new ones) in 
new variations and settings to give 
the semblance of freshness. And 
the editor mUst be sufficiently astute 
and knowing to prevent the author 
from foisting off old-hat treatments 
as something new. 

However, the final verdict is al- 
ways with the reader. He is the 
bloke who buys the magazine — and 
if he doesn't buy often enough or 
in sufficient quantity no magazine 
is going to survive long. He's the 
real, the ultimate boss. 



SAM MERVIN, JR. 

HENCE it is all-important that 
he keep his mind open to 
well-written stories, no matter how 
unreal their premises may seem to 
him in his wisdom. Let him land on 
poor quality, shoddy presentation, 
any of the lesser sins of publishing. 
But not on ideas and premises per 
se. ff he does he will ultimately be 
depriving himself of any stf read- 
ing at all. 

Some years back we were shocked 
when, after explaining that, after 
experimenting on fruit flies to de- 
termine the possible mutational ef- 
fects of A-bomb radiations, scien- 
tists stated it would take a least a 
thousand generations to determine 
whether such results could be ex- 
pected. At which some of our more 
excitable readers wrote in to this 
effect— "Gee Whizz — a thousand 
generations! Then we're going to 
miss all the fun." 

We aren't shocked any more. 
Their reaction may have been a 
trifle callous from the humanitarian 
viewpoint. But it certainly revealed 
that they had wide-open minds. 
And we remain open on the ques- 
tion of which is more important. 



It is man's most precious possession — no 
living thing can exist without it. But 
when they gave it to Orville, it killed 
him. For the answer, read 1/M. 



Vital 
Ingredient 

By Charles V. De Vet 



NOW WATCH," Remm said, in- 
dicating the native. Macker had 
been absent, exploring the country- 
side in the immediate vicinity of 
their landing place, and had not 
witnessed the capture of the native, 
or the tests his two companions 
made on it. 

Macker followed Remm's gaze to 
where the biped native sat hunched. 
The creature was bent into an un- 
gainly position, its body crooked at 
incongruous angles, in such a way 
as to allow most of its weight to 
rest on a packing-box at the base 
of a middle angle. Its stubby feet, 
on the ends of thin, pipelike legs, 
rested against the floor of the space 



93 



ship. Its body was covered, almost 
entirely, with an artificial skin ma- 
terial of various colors. Some of the 
colors hurt Macker's eyes. In the 
few places where the flesh showed 
through the skin was an unhealthy, 
pallid white. 

Slowly the creature's head swiv- 
eled on its short neck until it faced 
them. 

"Those orifaces in the upper por- 
tion of its skull are evidently organs 
of sight," Remm said. "It sees that 
we are quite a distance away. It 
will probably attempt to escape 
again." 

Slowly — slowly — the native's 
head rotated away from them in a 



94 



CHARLES DE VET 



half-circle until it faced Toolls, 
working over his instruments on the 
far side of the room. Then it turned 
its head back until it faced the door 
of the ship. 

"It is* setting itself for flight 
now," Remm said. "Notice the evi- 
dence of strain ort its face." 

The creature leaned forward and 
the appendages on the ends of its 
upper limbs clutched the sides of 
the box as it propelled its body for- 
ward. 

It raised its right foot in a slow 
arc, employing a double-jointed, 
breaking action of its leg. For a 
long moment it rested its entire 
weight on its lumpy right foot, 
while its momentum carried its 
body sluggishly forward. Then it re- 
peated the motion with its left leg; 
then again its right. All the while 
evidencing great exertion and con- 
centration of effort. 

"It is making what it considers a 
mad dash for freedom," Remm 
said. "Probably at the ultimate 
speed of which it is capable. That 
would be ridiculous except that it's 
normal for its" own environment. 
This is definitely a slow-motion 
world." 

The creature was a third-way to 
the door now. Onct again its head 
turned in its slow quarter-circle, to 
look at them. As it saw that Remm 
and Macker had not moved it al- 
tered the expression on its face. 

"It seems to express its emotions 
through facial contortions," Remm 
said. "Though I suspect that the 
sounds it makes with the upper part 
of its trachea during moments of 
;i nation are also outlets of emo- 
tional stress, rather than efforts at 



communication." He called across 
the room to Toolls. "What did you 
find out about its speech?" 

"Extremely primitive," Toolls re- 
plied. "Incredible as it may appear 
to us it uses combinations of 
sounds to form word-symbols. Each 
word indicates some action, or ob- 
ject; or denotes degree, time, or 
shades of meaning. Other words are 
.merely connectives. It seems to 
make little use of inflections, the 
basis of a rational language. 
Thoughts which we can project 
with a few sounds would take it 
dozens of words to express." 

"Just how intelligent is it?" 
Macker asked. 

"Only as intelligent as a high de- 
gree of self-preservation instinct 
would make it." 

"Are you certain that it is a mem- 
ber of the dominant species of life 
on the planet?" 

"There's no doubt about it," 
Toolls replied. "I've made very 
careful observations." 

"This attempt at escape is a pret- 
ty good example of its intelligence," 
Remm said. "This is the sixth time 
it has tried to escape — in exactly 
the same way. As soon as it sees 
that we are farther away from it, 
than it is from the door, it makes its 
dash." 



THE CREATURE was one step 
away from the space ship's open 
portal now and bringing its foot up 
to cross the threshold. Remm 
walked over and lifted it off the 
floor. 

"Its legs are still moving in a 
running motion," Macker said. 




It was an arm to be proud of — but what good was it? 



96 



CHARLES DE VET 



"Doesn't it realize yet that you've 
picked it up?" 

"Its nervous system and reflexes 
are evidently as slow as its motor 
muscles," Remm replied. "There 
has not been time for the sensation 
of my picking it up to reach the 
brain, and for the brain to send 
back its message to the legs to stop 
their running motion." 

"How heavy is it?" Macker 
asked. 

"Only a few ounces," Remm re- 
plied. "But that's logical consider- 
ing that this is a 'light' planet. If 
we took it back to our own "heavy" 
world gravity would cruifc it to a 
light film of the liquid which com- 
prises the greater part of its sub- 
stance." 

Remm set the creature down on 
the box in its former queerly con- 
torted position. Toolls had left his 
instruments and strolled over be- 
side them to observe the native. 

"One of its appendages seems 
bent at a peculiar angle," Macker 
said. 

"I noticed that," Remm an- 
swered. "I think that I may have 
broken the bone in several places 
when I first captured it. I was not 
aware then of how fragile it was. 
But now that you mention it, I 
should be able to use that injury 
to give you a good illustration of 
the interplay of emotional expres- 
sions on its face. Observe now as I 
touch it." 

Ri'jTiin reached over and touched 
- very lightly — the broken portion 
of the native's appendage. The 
inn i Irs of the creature's face pulled 
ii tin i id flesh into distorted posi- 
tions, bunching some and stretching 



others. "It is very probably regis- 
tering pain," Remm said. 

Suddenly the starch seemed to 
leave the native's body and it slowly 
slumped across the packing-box. 

"Why is it doing that, Toolls?" 
Remm asked. 

Toolls concentrated for a min- 
ute, absorbing the feelings and 
thought pulsations emanating from 
the creature. "The conscious plane 
of its mind has blanked out," he 
said. "I presume the pain you 
caused by touching its wounded 
member resulted in a breakdown 
of its nervous system. The only 
thought waves I receive now are 
disjointed impressions and pictures 
following no rational series. How- 
ever, I'm certain that it will be 
only temporary." 

"Don't you think that in justice 
to the creature we should repair its 
wound before we free it?" Macker 
asked. 

"I had intended to have it done," 
Remm replied. "You shouldn't 
have any trouble fixing it, should 
you, Toolls?" 

"No," Toolls answered. "I may 
as well attend to it right now." He 
rolled the portable converter over 
beside the creature and carefully 
laid its arm in the "pan." The con- 
verter automatically set its gauges 
and instruments of calculation, and 
gave its click of "ready." - 

Toolls fed a short length of basic 
into the machine and it began its 
work. The native was still uncon- 
scious. 

The bone of the wounded arm 
slowly evaporated, beginning with 
the wrist joint. The evaporated 
portion was instantly replaced by 



VITAL INGREDIENT 



97 



the manufactured bone of the con- 
verter. At the same time it repaired 
all ruptured blood vessels and dam- 
aged ligaments and muscles. 

"It was not possible, of course, 
for me to replace the bone with an- 
other of the same composition as 
its own," Toolls said, after the ma- 
chine had completed its work. "But 
I gave it one of our "heavy" ones. 
There will be no force on this 
planet powerful enough to break it 
again." 



THE NATIVE'S first evidence of 
a return to consciousness was a 
faint fluttering of the lids that cov- 
ered its organs of vision. The Jids 
opened and it looked up at them. 

"Its eyesight is as slow as its mus- 
cular reactions," Remm said. 
"Watch." Remm raised his hand 
and waved it slowly in front of the 
native's face. The eyes of the native, 
moving in odd, jerking movements, 
followed the hand's progress. 
Remm raised the hand — speeding 
its action slightly- — and the eye- 
sight faltered and lost it. The na- 
tive's eyes rolled wildly until once 
again they located the hand. 

Remm took three steps forward. 
The native's eyes were unable to 
follow his change of position. Its 
gaze wandered about the room, un- 
til again its settled on Remm's wait- 
ing figure. 

"Can you imagine anything be- 
ing so slow," Remm said, "and 
still . . ." Suddenly Macker inter- 
rupted. "Something is wrong. It is 
trying to get up, but it can't." The 
native was registering signs of dis- 
tress, kicking its legs and twisting its 



body into new positions of contor- 
tion. 

"I see what the trouble is," Toolls 
said. "It's unable to lift the append- 
age with the new bone in. I never 
thought of that before but its 
'light' muscles aren't strong 
enough to lift the limb. We've got 
the poor creature pinned to the box 
by the weight of its own arm." 

"We can't do that to it," Remm 
said. "Isn't there any way you can 
give it a lighter bone?" 

"None that wouldn't take a re- 
tooling of the converter" Toolls 
said. "I'm not certain that I could 
do it, and even if I could, we don't 
have the time to spare. I could give 
it stronger muscles in the arm, but 
that may throw off the metabolism 
of the whole body. If it did the re- 
sult would be fatal. I'd hate to 
chance it." 

"I have an idea," Macker said. 
By the inflections of his tones the 
others knew that some incongruity 
of the situation had aroused Mack- 
er's sense of humor. "Why don't 
we give the creature an entirely 
new body? We could replace the 
flesh and viscera, as well as the 
cartilaginous structure, with our 
own type substance. It would prob- 
ably be an indestructible being as 
far as its own world is concerned. 
And it would be as powerful as 
their mightiest machines. We'd 
leave behind us a superman that 
could change the course of this 
world's history. You could do it, 
couldn't you, Toolls?" 

"Quite simply." 

"Our policy has always been not 
to interfere in anyway with the 
races we study," Remm protested. 



98 



CHARLES DE VET 



"But our policy has also been 
never to harm any of them, if at 
all possible to avoid it," Macker in- 
sisted. "In common justice ypu 
have to complete the job Toolls be- 
gan on the arm, or you're condemn- 
ing this poor thing to death." 

"But do we have the right to 
loose such an unpredictible factor 
as it would be among them?" 
Remm asked. "After all, our pur- 
pose is exploration and observation, 
not playing the parts of gods to the 
primitives we encounter." 

"True, that is the rule which we 
have always followed in the past," 
Macker agreed, "but it is in no way 
a requirement. We are empowered 
to use our judgment in all circum- 
stances. And in this particular in- 
stance I believe I can convince you 
that the course I suggest is the more 
just one." He turned to Toolls. 
"Just what stage of cultural de- 
velopment would you say this crea- 
ture's race has attained?" 

"It still retains more of an ani- 
mal-like adaptation to its surround- 
ings than an intellectual one," 
Toolls replied. "Its civilization is 
divided into various sized units of 
cooperation which it calls govern- 
ments. Each unit vies with the 
others for a greater share of its 
world's goods. That same rivalry is 
carried down to the individual 
within the unit. Each strives for ac- 
quisition against his neighbor. 

"Further they retain many of 
their tribal instincts, such as gre- 
l;.ii muiness, emotional rather than 
intellectual propagation, and wor- 
.siiiji of the mightiest fighter. This 
l.r.i, however, is manifested by rev- 
el mec for individuals attaining po- 



sition of authority, or acquiring 
large amounts of their medium of 
exchange, rather than by physical 
superiority." 

"That's what I mean," Macker 
said. "Our policy in the past has 
been to avoid tampering, only be- 
cause of the fear of bringing harm. 
If we created a super being among 
them, to act as a controlling and 
harmonizing force, we'd hasten 
their development by thousands of 
years. We'd be granting them the 
greatest possible boon!" 

"I don't know," Remm said, ob- 
viously swayed by Macker's logic. 
"I'm still hesitant about introduc- 
ing a being into their midst whose 
thought processes would be so sub- 
tle and superior to their own. How 
do you feel about it, Toolls?" 

"What would they have to lose?" 
Toolls asked with his penchant for 
striking the core of an argument. 

"The right or wrong of such' 
moral and philosophical considera- 
tions has always been a delicate 
thing to decide," Remm acquiesed 
reluctantly. "Go ahead if you think 
it is the right thing to do." 



ALL FINISHED?" Macker asked. 
"That depends on how much 
you want me to do," Toolls re- 
plied. "I've substituted our "heavy" 
substances for his entire body struc- 
ture, including the brain — -at the 
same time transferring his former 
memory and habit impressions. 
That was necessary if he is to be 
able to care for himself. Also I 
brought his muscular reaction time 
up to our norm, and speeded his re- 
flexes." 



VITAL INGREDIENT 



99 



"Have you implanted any tech- 
niques which he did not possess be- 
fore, such as far-seeing, or mental 
insight?" Macker asked. ' 

"No," Toolls said. "That is what 
I want your advice about. Just how 
much should I reveal about our- 
selves and our background? Or 
should he be left without any 
knowledge of us?" 

"Well . . ." Now that the others 
had deferred to Macker's argu- 
ments, he had lost much of his cer- 
tainty. "Perhaps we should at least 
let him know who we are, and what 
we have done. That would save him 
much alarm and perplexity when it 
comes time to reorient himself. On 
the other hand perhaps we should 
go even farther and implant the 
knowledge of some of our sciences. 
Then he could do a better job of 
advancing his people. But maybe 
I'm wrong. What do you think 
about it, Remm?" 

"My personal opinion," Remm 
said, "is that we can't/ give him 
much of oUr science, because it 
would be like giving a baby a high 
explosive to play with. His race is 
much too primitive to handle it 
wisely. Either he, or someone to 
whom he imparts what we teach 
him, would be certain to bring 
catastrophe to his world. And if 
we let him learn less, but still re- 
member his contact with us, in time 
his race would very likely come to 
regard us as gods. I would hesitate 
to drag in any metaphysical con- 
fusion to add to the uncertainties 
you are already engendering. My 
advice would be to wipe his mind 
of all memory of us. Let him ex- 



plain his new found invincibility to 
himself in his own way." 

Macker had no criticism to offer 
to this suggestion. "Does he retain 
any of his immunity to this world's 
malignant germs?" he asked. , 

"They are too impotent to repre- 
sent any hazard to his present body 
mechanism," Toolls replied. "If and 
when he dies it will not be from 
disease." 

"He will be subject to the de- 
terioration of old age, the same as 
we are, won't he?" Macker asked, 

"Of course," Toolls said, "but 
that's the only thing that will be 
able to bring him down. He cannot 
be harmed by any force this 'light' 
world can produce; he is impervi- 
ous to sickness; and he will live in- 
definitely." 

"Indefinitely?" 

"As his world reckons time. 
Their normal life span is less than 
a hundred years. Ours is over five 
thousand. He will probably live 
approximately twice that long, be- 
cause he will be subjected to less 
stress and strain, living as he does 
on a world of lighter elements." 

"Then we have truly made a 
superman," Macker's tones in- 
flected satisfaction. "I wish we were 
returning this way in a thousand 
years or so. I'd like to see the monu- 
mental changes he will effect." 

"We may at that," Remm said, 
"or others of our people will. He 
will probably be a living legend by 
then. I'd like to hear what his race 
has to say about him. Do they 
have names with which to dif- 
ferentiate individuals?" 

"Yes," Toolls said. "This one has 
a family designation of Pollnow, 



100 



CHARLES DE VET 



and a member designation of Or- 

ville." 

"It will be necessary for us to 
leave in exactly ten minutes," 
Reram reminded them. "Our next 
stopping place — the red star — will 
reach its nearest conjunction with 
this planet by the time we meet it 
out in space." 

"Then we will have time to do 
nothing .more for him before we 
go," Macker said. "But as far as I 
can see we've forgotten nothing, 
have we Toolls?" 

"Nothing," Toolls answered. "No 
— we forgot nothing." 



BUT Toolls was wrong. They 
had forgotten one thing. A 
minor detail, relatively. . . 

On Toolls' world his race, in 
the course of its evolution, had ad- 



justed itself to its own particular 
environment. Logically, the final re- 
sult was that they evolved into 
beings best able to survive in that 
environment. As such their food — • 
a "heavy," highly concentrated food 
— was ideally suited to supply the 
needs of their "heavy," tremendous- 
ly avid organisms. 

Orville Pollnow had no such food 
available. His body — no larger than 
before — had an Earth mass of one 
hundred and eighty thousand 
pounds. One hundred and eighty 
thousand pounds — the weight of 
twelve hundred average sized men 
- — of fiercely burning, intense virili- 
ty. Even continuous eating — of his 
own world's food — could not supply 
the demands of that body. 

Twenty-four hours after the 
aliens left, Pollnow was dead — of 
starvation. 



THE END 







Ask your news dealer to reserve your September issue now! 



When" Uncle Peter decided to clean out 
the underworld, it was a fine thing for 
the town, but it was tough on the folks in 
Tibet. « 



"And that's how 
it was, officer' 5 

By Ralph Sholto 



DAVID NIXON, 
Chief of Police, 
Morton City. 

Dear Chief Nixon : 

No doubt by this time, you and 
your boys are a pretty bewildered 
lot. You have all probably lost 
weight wondering what has been 
going on in Morton City; where 
all the gangsters went, and why the 
underworld has vanished like a 
bucket of soap bubbles. 

Not being acquainted with my 
uncle, Peter Nicholas, with Bag 
Ears Mulligan, with the gorgeous 
Joy Nicholas, my bride of scarcely 
twenty-four hours, or with me, 
Homer Nicholas, you have of course 



been out of touch with a series of 
swiftly moving events just culmi- 
nated. 

You, above all others, are entitled 
to know what has been happening 
in our fair city. Hence this letter. 
When you receive it, Joy and I will 
be on the way to Europe in pursuit 
of a most elusive honeymoon. Uncle 
Peter will be headed for Tibet in 
order to interview certain very im- 
portant people you and your de- 
partment never heard of. Bag Ears 
will probably be off somewhere 
searching for his bells, and I sug- 
gest you let him keep right on 
searching, because Bag Ears isn't 
one to answer questions with very" 
much intelligence. 



101 



102 



RALPH SHOLTO 



So, because of the fact that a 
great deal of good has been done at 
no cost whatever to the taxpayers, 
I suggest you read this letter and 
then forget about the whole thing. 

It all started when Joy and I 
finally got an audience with Uncle 
Peter in his laboratory yesterday 
morning. Possibly you will think it 
strange that I should have difficulty 
in contacting my own close relative. 
But you don't know Uncle Peter. 

He is a strange mixture of the 
doer and the dreamer- — the genius 
and the child. Parts of his brain 
never passed third grade while 
other parts could sit down and tie 
Einstein in knots during a discus- 
sion of nuclear physics, advanced 
mathematics or what have you. He 
lives in a small bungalow at the 
edge of town, in the basement of 
which, is his laboratory. A steel 
door bars the public from this 
laboratory and it was upon this 
door that Joy and I pounded futilely 
for three days. Finally the door 
opened and Uncle Peter greeted us. 

"Homer — my dear boy! Have 
you been knocking long?" 

"Quite a while, Uncle Peter — off 
and on that is.- I have some news 
for you. I am going to get married." 

My uncle became visibly dis- 
turbed. "My boy! That's wonderful 
- -truly wonderful. But I'm certain- 
ly surprised at you. Tsk-tsk-tsk!" 
' "What do you mean by' tsk-tsk- 
tsk?" 

"Your moral training has been 
badly neglected. You plan marriage 
even while traveling about in the 
company of this woman you have 
with you. ' 

Joy is a lady of the finest breed- 



ing, but she can be caught off-guard 
at times. This was one of the times. 
She said, "Listen here, you bald- 
headed jerk. Nobody calls me a 
woman — " 

Uncle Peter was mildly inter- 
ested. "Then if you aren't a wom- 
an, what — ?" 

I hastened to intervene. "You 
didn't let Joy finish, Uncle Peter. 
She no doubt would have added — 
'in that tone of voice.' And I think 
her attitude is entirely justified. Joy 
is a fine girl and my intended 
bride." 

"Oh, why didn't you say so?" 

"I supposed you would assume 
as much." 

"My boy. I am a scientist. A 
scientist assumes nothing. But I 
wish to apologize to the young lady 
and I hope you two will be very 
happy." 

"That's better," Joy said, with 
only a shade of truculence. 

"And now," Uncle Peter went on. 
"It would be very thoughtful of you 
to leave. I am working on ~a serum 
which will have a great deal to 
to do with changing the course 
of civilization. In fact it is already 
perfected and must be tested. It 
is a matter of utmost urgency to 
me that \ be left alone to arrange 
the tests." 

"I am afraid," I said, "that you 
will have to delay your work a few 
hours. It is not everyday that your 
nephew gets married and in all 
decency you must attend the wed- 
ding and the reception. I don't wish 
you to be inconvenienced too great- 
ly, but— " 

Uncle Peter's mind had gone off 
on another track. He stopped me 



THAT'S HOW IT WAS, OFFICER 



103 



with a wave of his hand and said, 
"Homer, are you still running 
around with those bums from the 
wrong side of town?" 



THESE words from anyone but 
Uncle Peter would have been, 
insulting. But Uncle Peter is the 
most impersonal man I have 
known. He never bothers insulting 
people for any personal satisfaction. 
When he asks a question he always 
has a reason for so doing. 

By way of explaining Uncle 
Peter's question, let me say that I 
am a firm believer in democracy 
and I demonstrate this belief in 
my daily , life. More than ds^e I 
have had to apologize for the defi- 
nitely unsocial attitude of my 
family. They have a tendency to 
look down on those less fortunate in 
environment and financial stability 
than we Nicholases. 

I however, do not approve of 
this snobbishness. I cannot' forget 
that a great-uncle, Phinias Nicholas, 
laid the foundations of our fortune 
by stealing cattle in the days of the 
Early West and selling them at an 
amazing profit. 

I personally am a believer in the 
precept that all men are created 
equal. I'll admit they don't remain 
equal very long, but that is beside 
the point. 

In defense of my convictions, I 
have always sought friends among 
the underprivileged brotherhood 
sometimes scathingly referred, to as 
bums^ tramps, screwballs, and I've 
found them, on the whole, to be 
pretty swell people. 

But to get back — I answered 



Uncle Peter rather stiffly. "My 
friends are my own affair and are 
not to be discussed." 

"No offense. My question had to 
do with an idea I got rather sud- 
denly. Will any of these — ah, 
friends, be present at the recep- 
tion?" 

"It is entirely possible." 

"Then I could easily infiltrate — -" 

"You could what?" 

"Never mind, my boy. It is not 
important. I'll be indeed honored 
to attend your wedding." 

At that moment there was a 
muffled commotion from beyond a 
closed door to our left; the sound 
of heels kicking on the panel and 
an irate female voice: 

"They gone yet? There's cobwebs 
in this damn closet — and it's dark !" 

Uncle Peter had the grace to 
blush. In fact he could do little else 
as the closet door opened and a 
young lady stepped forth. 

In the vulgar parlance of the 
day, this girl could be described 
only as a dream-boat. This beyond 
all doubt, because the trim hull, 
from stem to stern, was bared to 
the gaze of all who cared to observe 
and admire. She was a blonde 
I dream-boat' — and most of her pres- 
'ent apparel had come from lying 
under a sun lamp. 

Uncle Peter gasped. "Cora! In 
the name of all decency — " 

Joy, with admirable aplomb, 
laughed gayly. "Why Uncle Peter! 
So it's that kind of research! And 
no wonder it's top-secret!" 

Uncle Peter's frantic attention 
was upon the girl. "I was never so 
mortified — " 

She raised her hair-line eyebrows. 



104 



RALPH SHOLTO 



"Why the beef, Winky? Aren't we 
among friends?" 

"Never mind! Never mind!" 
Uncle Peter fell back upon his 
dignity — having nothing else to fall 
back on — and said, "Homer — Joy 
— this is Cora, my ah — assistant. 
She was ah — in the process of tak- 
ing a shower, and — " 

Joy reached forth and pinched 
Uncle Peter's flaming cheek. "It's 
all right, uncle dear. Perfectly all 
right. And I'll bet this chick can 
give a terrific assist, too." 

I felt the scene should be broken 
up at the earliest possible moment. 
I steered Joy toward the door. I 
said, "We'll see you later, then, 
Uncle Peter." 

"And you too, Miss Courtney," 
Joy cut in. "Make Winky bring 
you and don't bother to dress. The 
reception is informal." ' 

I got Joy out the door but I 
couldn't^ suppress her laughter. 
"Winky," she gasped. "Oh, my 
orange and purple garter-belt!" 

WE WILL proceed now, to 
the reception, which was 
given by my Aunt Gretchen in the 
big house on Shore Drive. We were t 
married at City Hall and — after a* 
delicious interlude while the cab 
was carrying us cross-town — we 
arrived there, a happy bride and 
groom. 

I am indeed fortunate to have 
wnord and won such a talented and 
I" uitilul girl as Joy. A graduate of 
V.tssar, she is an accomplished 
: mi t. a brilliant conversationalist, 
I i. Mipficliaiged with a vitality 
. .nl effervescence which — while 



they sometimes manifest in disturb- 
ing ways — are wonderful to behold. 
But more of that later. 

The reception began smoothly 
enough. The press was satisfactori- 
ly represented, much to Aunt 
Gretchen' s gratification. Joy and I 
stood at the door for a time, re- 
ceiving. Then, tiring of handshakes 
and congratulations, we retired to 
the conservatory to be alone for a 
few minutes. 

Or so we thought. 

Almost immediately, Aunt 
Gretchen ferreted us out. Aunt 
Gretchen has long-since lost the 
smooth silhouette for which the 
Nicholas women are noted. She has 
broadened in all departments and 
she came waddling along between 
banks of yellow roses in a manner 
suggesting an outraged circus tent. 

"Homer," she called. "Homer!" 

I reluctantly took my hands away 
and answered her. 

"Oh, there you are! Homer — I 
want an explanation." 

"An explanation of what?" 

"There is a person at the door 
who calls himself Bag Ears Mulli- 
gan. He has the audacity to claim 
you invited him to — to this brawl 
as he terms it." 

I must here explain — with sor- 
row — that my Aunt Gretchen is a 
snob. There is no other term for 
it. It has gotten to be such a habit 
with her that any friend of mine 
is automatically a person to be 
looked down on. 

And Bag Ears Mulligan is one 
of my dearest friends. Of course 
I had invited him to my wedding, 
and felt honored by his attendance. 
Bag Ears is a habitue of one of the 



THAT'S HOW IT WAS, OFFICER 



105 



less glittering places I frequent in 
search of lasting fellowship — Red- 
Nose Tessie's Bar, to be exact. A 
place of dirty beer glasses but of 
warm hearts and sincere people. 

"I'll see this man, Aunt Gretch- 
en," I said with calm dignity. "He 
is to be an honored guest. While 
somewhat rugged in appearance, 
Bag Ears has a sensitive nature and 
must be treated with understand- 
ing." 

Aunt Gretchen's lips quivered. 
"Homer — I'm through — absolutely 
and finally through!. You can get 
someone else to handle your next 
wedding reception. Hold it in a 
barn or a stable. Never again in 
my house." 

After this tactless outburst, Aunt 
Gretchen came about and sailed 
out of the conservatory. Joy and I 
followed wordlessly. 

Upon arriving at the front door, 
we found Aunt Gretchen had 
spoken the truth. Bag Ears was 
waiting there. He had been herded 
into a corner by Johnson, Aunt 
Gretchen's stuffed shirt of a but- 
ler, who was standing guard over 
him. 

Bag Ears grinned happily when 
he caught sight of me and I smiled 
reassuringly.. While Bag Ears is not 
too richly endowed with good looks, 
he has a great heart and at one time 
was possessed of a lightning-fast 
brain. However, he took a great 
deal of punishment during his un- 
successful climb toward the light- 
weight title, and his brain has been 
slowed down to the point where it 
sometimes comes to a complete 
halt. His features reflect the fury 
of a hundred battles in the squared 



ring. They are in a sad state, his 
ears particularly. They hang weari- 
ly downward like the leaves of a 
dying cabbage plant. 

Also, Bag Ears, has fallen into 
the misfortune of hearing bells at 
various times — bells that exist only 
in his poor, bewildered mind. But 
he is cheerful and warm-hearted 
nonetheless. 

He said, "Homer, this character 
says I should o' brung along my 
invite. But I don't remember you 
givin' me one. You just ast me to 
come." 

"That is true," I returned, "and 
you are most welcome. You may go 
Johnson." I gave the butler a cold 
look and he stalked away. 

I THEN introduced Bag Ears to 
my new bride. "This is Joy. I 
am certainly a lucky man, Bag Ears. 
Isn't she the most beautiful thing 
you ever saw?" 

Bag Ears was of course impressed. 
"Golly what gams!" he breathed. 
His eyes traveled upward and he 
said, "Golly what — what things and 
stuff." He came finally to her face. 
"Baby, you got it!" 

Joy was rocked back on her heels. 
Caught unawares by the open ad- 
miration in his eyes, she whispered, 
"Oh, my ancient step-ins!" 

But she rallied like a thorough- 
bred and gave Bag Ears a dazzling 
smile. "I'm delighted, Mr. Mulli- 
gan. Homer's friends are my friends 
■ — I think — and I'm sure everything 
will turn out all right." 

Bag Ears said, "Lady — leave us 
not be formal. Just .call me Bag 
Ears." 



106 



RALPH SHOLTO 



"Of course — Bag Ears — leave us 
be chummy." 

He now turned his remarks to 
me and evinced even more intense 
admiration for my bride. "She re- 
minds me of a fast lightweight — the 
most beautiful sight in the world." 

"Let us repair to the conserva- 
tory," I said, "where we can have 
a quiet chat." I said this because 
I felt that some of the other guests 
might not be as tactful as Joy and 
might make Bag Ears feel uncom- 
fortable. Aunt Gretchen had rudely 
vanished without waiting for an 
introduction and the actions of the 
hostess often set the pattern for 
those of the guests. 

As we moved toward the reiar of 
the house, Joy took my arm and 
said, "Speaking of being stripped 
down for action — what do you sup- 
pose happened to Uncle Peter? I 
haven't seen him around any- 
where." 

"He gave his word, so I'm sure 
he'll come." 

"That's what I'm afraid of." 

"I don't understand." 

"I don't quite understand myself, 
but I feel uneasy. I remember the 
calculating look in his eye when he 
suddenly agreed to honor us with 
his presence. There was something 
too eager about that look. And his 
asking whether any of your friends 
would be here." 

"Uncle Peter is basically a good 
fellow. I think he envies me my 
wide contacts." 

"Maybe." 

"If he seemed a trifle peculiar, 
you must remember that he is a 
m initist. Even now he is engaged 
in nine important project — some 



experiment — 

"I know — we met her." 

"Joy! Please!" 

" — but I wouldn't think he'd 
have to experiment at his age. I'd 
think--" 

I put my hand firmly over her 
mouth. "Darling — we have a guest 
— Bag Ears—" 

"Oh, of course." 

Safely hidden behind a. bank of 
tropical grass, I took Joy in my 
arms and kissed her. Bag Ears 
obligingly looked in the other di- 
rection. But Joy didn't quite get 
her heart into it. She seemed pre- 
occupied — I might almost say, be- 
wildered, 

"Bag Ears," she whispered to no 
one in particular, "and what did 
you say the lady's name was? Oh — 
I remember — Red-Nose Tessie." 
She pondered for a moment and 
then smiled up at me dreamily. 
"Darling — I never realized what a 
versatile person you are — " 

Bag Ears perked up. "Verseetile? 
You ain't just a hootin', babe. And 
tough. You should see his right." 

I strove to quiet him down. 
"Never mind, Bag Ears — " 

But Joy evinced great interest. 
"Tell me—" 

"Babe — the kid could be the next 
heavyweight champ in a breeze. I 
mind me one night a monkey comes 
into the tavern rodded — ■" 

Joy held up a hand. "Just a 
moment. I don't like to appear 
stupid, but — " 

"A moke wid a heater — a goon 
wid a gat." 

"Oh — you mean a man with a 
gun. 

"Sure — that's what I said. Any- 



THAT'S HOW IT WAS, OFFICER 



107 



how, this droolie makes a crack 
about Tessie's beak — " 

"An insult relative to her nose?" 

"Sure — sure. And Tessie's hot 
to kiss him wid a bottle when he 
pulls the iron." 

"Imagine that," Joy said, and I 
felt a slight shiver go through her 
body. 

"Then Horner here, gets off his 
stool and says very polite-like. 'That 
remark, sir, was in bad taste and 
entirely uncalled-for. I believe an 
apology is in order.' And the 
monkey standing there with the gat 
in his mitt. What Homer meant 
was the jerked cracked'out o' turn 
and to eat his words fast." 

"I gathered that was what he 
meant." 

"But the screwball raises the 
hardware and- — wham— Homer hits 
him. What a sock! The goon back- 
pedals across the room and into a 
cardboard wall next to the door 
marked 'ladies'. He busts right 
through the wall and lands in a 
frail's lap inside who's — " 

"Powdering her nose?" 

"That's right! What a sock!" 

JOY'S eyes were upon mine. 
"Darling! I didn't have the 
least idea. Why it's going to be won- 
derful! Never a dull moment!" 

I kissed my bride, after which 
she said, "I think I could do with 
a drink, sweetheart." 

"Your wish is my command." 

I got up and started, toward the 
liquor supply inside the house. Joy's 
soft call stopped me. 

"What is it angel?" I inquired. 

"Not just a drink, sweet. Bring 



the bottle." 

I went into the kitchen and got 
a bottle of brandy. But upon return- 
ing, I discovered I'd neglected to 
bring glasses. 

But Joy took the bottle from me 
in a rather dazed manner, knocked 
off the neck against a leg of the 
bench and tipped the bottle to her 
beautiful lips. She took a pull of 
brandy large enough to ward off 
the worst case of pneumonia and 
then passed the bottle to Bag Ears. 

"Drink hearty, pal," she mur- 
mured, and sort of sank down into 
herself. 

I never got my turn at the bottle 
because, just at that moment, Aunt 
Gretchen came sailing like a pink 
cloud along the conservatory walk. 
She was no longer the old familiar 
Aunt Gretchen. Her eyes were 
glazed and her face was drawn and 
weary. 

Bag Ears looked up politely and 
asked, "Who's the fat sack?" 

I was hoping Aunt Gretchen 
hadn't heard the question because 
she would fail to understand that 
while his words were uncouth, he 
had a heart of gold and meant 
well. Arid I don't think she did hear 
him. She didn't even hear Joy, who 
replied, 

"That's the dame that owns the 
joint." 

Aunt Gretchen fixed her accusing 
eyes upon, me to the exclusion of 
everyone else. Her button of a chin 
quivered. "Please understand, Ho- 
mer — I'm not ' criticizing; Things 
have gotten past that stage. I've 
merely come to report that the 
house is filling up with an astound- 
ing assortment of characters. John- 



108 



RALPH SHOLTO 



son resigned a half hour ago. But 
before he left, he suggested a man' 
who could handle the situation far 
better than he himself. A man 
named Frank Buck." 

"But my dear aunt," I protested. 
"There must be some mistake. I 
did not invite any unusual people to 
this reception. I issued only three 
invitations. I invited Willie Shank, 
who could not come because of a 
dispute with the police over the 
ownership of a car he was driving 
yesterday; John Smith, who could 
not come because this is the day he 
reports to the parole board, and my 
good friend Bag Ears Mulligan." 

"How did you happen to over- 
look Red-Nose Tessie?" Joy asked. 

"The poor woman is emotional. 
She does not enjoy wedding re- 
ceptions. She weeps." 

"So does Aunt Gretchen," Joy 
observed. 

Aunt Gretchen was indeed weep- 
ing—quietly, under the blanket of 
reserve with which the Nicholases 
cover their emotions. I was about 
to comfort her when she turned 
and fled. I started to run after her 
but decided against it and returned 
to Joy. 

"Perhaps," I said, "we had bet- 
ter investigate this strange turn of 
events. Possibly our reception has 
been crashed by some undesirable 
persons." 

"Impossible," Joy replied. "But it 
might be fun to look them over. 
Shall we have a quick one first- 
just to stiffen the old spine a bit?" 

It sounded like a good sugges- 
tion so we stiffened our spines with 
what was left in the bottle, and 
quitted the conservatory. 



BACK in the house, one thing 
became swiftly apparent. We 
had guests who were utter strangers 
to me. But it was Bag Ears who 
summed up the situation with the 
briefest possible statement. "Jees!" 
he ejaculated. "It's a crooks' con- 
vention!" 

"You can identify some of these 
intruders?" 

"If you mean do I know 'em, 
the apswer is without a doubt, pal. 
Somehow, the whole Cement Mixer 
Zinsky mob has infiltered into the 
joint." 

"Cement Mixer Zinsky," Joy 
murmured. "Another of those odd 
names." 

"It's on account of he invented 
something. Zinsky was the first gee 
to think up a very novel way of 
getting rid "of people that crowd 
you. He got the idea to mix up a 
tub of cement — place the unwanted 
character's feet in same and then 
throw the whole thing into the lake. 
Result — no more crowding by that 
guy." 

"He was the first one who 
thought of it? A sort of trail 
blazer." 

"Of course Cement Mixer is a 
big shot now and his boys take care 
of things like that. But sometimes 
he goes along to mix the cement — 
just to keep his hand in you might 
say." 

"A sentimentalist no doubt." 

"No doubt," Bag Ears agreed. 

I patted Joy's hand and said, 
"Don't be alarmed, darling. I will 
take care of everything." 

The situation was definitely ob- 
noxious to me. Tolerance of one's 
fellow men is one thing, but this 



THAT'S HOW IT WAS, OFFICER 



109 



was something entirely different. 
These people had come uninvited 
to our festive board and were of 
the criminal element, pure and un- 
adulterated by any instincts of hon- 
esty or decency. And it made me 
angry to see them wading into Aunt 
Gretchen's liquor supply as though 
the stuff came out of a pump. 

They were easy to count, these 
hoodlums, segregated as they were. 
The more respectable of the guests 
who had not already left, were 
clustered together in one corner of 
the living room, possibly as a ges- 
ture toward self -protection. None of 
these elite were making any effort 
to approach the buffet or the port- 
able bar at the other side of the 
room. And in thus refraining, they 
showed a superior brand of intelli- 
gence. Under present circum- 
stances any attempt to reach the re- 
freshments would have been as 
dangerous as crossing the Hialeah 
race track on crutches. 

In fact, as I surveyed the scene, 
one brave lady made a half-hearted 
attempt to cross over and spear a 
sandwich off the corner of the buf- 
fet. She was promptly shoved out 
of range by. a lean, hungry looking 
customer in a pink shirt, who 
snarled, "Scram, Three Chins! 
You're overfed now." 

Unhooking Joy's dear fingers 
from my arm, I said, "You will par- 
don me, but it is time for action. 
Bag Ears will see that you are not 
harmed." 

I started toward the buffet, or 
rather toward the crowd of male 
and female hoodlums who com- 
pletely blocked if from my sight. 
But Bag Ears snatched me by the 



sleeve and whispered, 

"For cri-yi, Homer! Don't be a 
fool! This mob is loaded wid hard- 
ware. They don't horse around 
none. Start slugging and they'll 
dress you in red polka dots. Better 
call in some law." 

I shook my head firmly and 
pulled Bag Ears' hand from my 
sleeve. But, his attention now 
turned in another direction, he held 
on even harder and muttered, 

"Jeeps! I'm seeing things!" 

I glanced around and saw him 
staring wide eyed at the entrance 
hall, his battered mouth ajar. I fol- 
lowed his eyes but could see noth- 
ing unusual.- Only the hall itself, 
through an arched doorway, and 
the lower section of the staircase 
that gave access to the second floor 
of .the house. It appeared to be the 
least-troubled spot in view. I 
frowned at Bag Ears. 

"Maybe I've gone nuts," he said, 
"but I'll swear I just saw a face 
peeking down around them stairs." 

"Whose face?" 

"Hands McCaffery's face! That's 
whose!" 

"And who is Hands McCaffery?" 

Bag Ears looked at me with stark 
unbelief. "You mean you don't 
know? Maybe your mom didn't 
give you the facts of life! Chum, 
they's two really tough monkeys in 
this town. One of them is Cement 
Mixer Zinsky and the other is 
Hands McCaffery. At the moment 
they're slugging it out to see which 
one gets to levy a head tax on the 
juke boxes in this section. It's a 
sweet take and neither boy will be 
satisfied with less than all. Seeing 
them both in one place is like see- 



no 



RALPH SHOLTO 



ing Truman and that music critic 
sit down at the piano together. And 
I know damn well that Hands is up 
on them stairs!" 

"You are obviously overwrought. 
If I have this type of person sized 
up correctly, none of them would 
be dallying on the stairs. If this 
Hands person were here, he'd be at 
the buffet fighting for a helping of 
pickled beets and a gin wash. Par- 
don me — I have work to do." 

But there was another interrup- 
tion. I froze in sudden alarm when 
I realized Joy was no longer at my 
side. Just as I made this discovery, 
there was an upsurge of commotion 
at the bar ; a commotion that went 
head and shoulders over the minor 
ones going on constantly. A short 
angry scream came to my ears, 
then a bull-voiced roar of agony. 



THE crowd at the buffet surged 
back and I saw a bucktoothed 
hooligan bent double, both hands 
gripping his ankle. Thick moans 
came from his lips. 

And standing close to him, was 
my Joy. But a new Joy. A different 
Joy than I had ever seen. A glorious 
Joy, with her head thrown back, 
her teeth showing, and the light of 
battle in her eyes. She was holding 
a plate of jello in one hand and a 
bottle of beer in the other and was 
shouting in outraged dignity. 

"Watch who you're shoving, you 
jti " headed gorilla! And keep your 
iitiii out of the herring! Eat like a 
in. m or go back to the zoo!" 

With that she placed an accu- 
i.iic kirk against the offending 
i li.u.u trr's other shine-bone and 



aimed the beer bottle at his skull. 

Joy turned and smiled gayly. "He 
pushed me," she said. "It's the most 
wonderful wedding reception I ever 
attended. Have a pickle." 

But surprise was piling upon sur- 
prise. Again I froze as a new phase 
of this horrible affair presented it- 
self. 

Uncle Peter. • 

Clad in apron and cap, he was 
behind the bar serving out drinks. 
This shook me to the core. It was a 
little like seeing Barney Baruch hit 
a three bagger in Yankee Stadium 
and slide into third base. 

But there he was, taking orders 
and dishing out drinks with an atti- 
tude as solemn and impersonal as 
an owl on a tree branch. 

Also, he had an assistant — his 
blonde bombshell. She was fully 
dressed now and I was struck by the 
peculiar manner in which this pe- 
culiar team functioned. 

Uncle Peter would mix a drink, 
glance at his wrist watch as he 
served it, then turn and whisper 
some sort of information to the girl. 
She noted it down in a small book 
and the routine was repeated. 

At this exact moment, I felt a 
sharp dig in the ribs. This brought 
my attention back to Joy, who had 
done the digging. 

"I'm still here, husband mine. 
Your bride — remember? Or are 
you waiting for that blonde hussy 
to start stripping?" 

"Darling, I'm afraid you're not 
paying close attention to things of 
importance. Don't you see Uncle 
Peter there — serving drinks?" 

"Of course I see him. What of 
it? If the old roue feels like dish- 



THAT'S HOW IT WAS, OFFICER 



111 



ing out a little alcohol to the boys, 
what — " 

"It's absolutely beyond all con- 
ception. Uncle Peter never does 
anything without a good reason. 
And this — *" 

My reply was cut short by a cold, 
brutal voice that knifed through the 
room and put a chill on all present. 
"Hold it everybody! Stand still and 
don't move a finger!" 

Not a finger in the room moved. 
^3ut all eyes turned toward the 
arched doorway leading to the en- 
trance hall. In its exact center, there 
stood a man — a short man of slight 
stature. He stood spread-legged, 
wearing a colored kerchief .over the 
lower part of his face. Only his eyes 
were visible— icy, black, narrowed. 
Those eyes seemed to be smiling a 
grim smile. Possibly his hidden 
teeth were bared in a snarl. But no 
one cared about that. Everyone was 
far more interested in the black 
Thompson sub-machine gun he 
held cradled over one arm. 

He toyed with the trigger, knif- 
ing the room with quick side 
glances. He said, "Okay. Start sort- 
ing yourselves out. You, pretty boy, 
and the frail with the beer bottle — 
out of the line of fire." He motioned 
with the gun barrel and I drew Joy 
toward the wall. 

"Now you, Cora — and old pud- 
dle-puss. Out of the way. And not a 
peep out of anybody." 

No one was inclined to peep, and 
now the stage was set in a manner 
which seemed to satisfy the masked 
gunman. The Cement Mixer Zin- 
sky crowd was clustered, cowering, 
around the buffet, staring at the 
machine gun as though it possessed 



the hypnotic eyes of a snake. 

The situation was entirely plain. 
The masked man fully intended to 
break the law by committing mur- 
der in Aunt Gretchen's living room. 
The only moot point seemed to be 
whether he intended to slay the 
whole mob or be selective and cut 
down only important members. His 
trigger finger turned whfte at the 
knuckle. 

Then Uncle Peter stepped for- 
ward to hold up a protesting hand. 
"You mustn't fire that weapon, my 
good fellow. Indeed you must not." 

His matter-of-fact attitude rather 
than his words, was what gave the 
'gunman pause. He had hardly ex- 
pected the display of completely im- 
personal bravery that Uncle Peter 
put on. The gunman asked, "Are 
you nuts, fiddlefoot?" 

"Far from it. But you must not, 
under any circumstances, fire that 
gun. It will upset one of the most 
important experiments in the his- 
tory of science. That experiment is 
now in progress." 

"Look, brother. I came here to 
mow down Zinsky and his mob. 
And I'm mowing. The St. Valen- 
tine's deal in Chi'll look like a Sun- 
day school binge after this one." 

"Possibly it will not be necessary 
to use your weapon." m 



UNCLE Peter's words, it seemed, 
were prophetic. At that exact 
moment, Cement Mixer Zinsky ex- 
ploded. Not violently, or with any 
peril to those standing close by. Yet 
no other term can describe it. 
There was a soft pop — as though a 
large, poorly inflated balloon had 



112 



RALPH SHOLTO 



been pricked with a pin. Zinsky 
seemed to go in all directions — 
fragments of him that is. Yet, as 
each fragment flew away from the 
main body, it shriveled up so that 
there was no blood, and no by- 
stander suffered the inconvenience 
of messed-up clothing. Just the pop 
and Zinsky expanded' like a human 
bomb ana then turned into dust. 

As this phenomenon occurred I 
saw Uncle Peter nod with great 
satisfaction and consult a passage 
in the book presided over by his 
blond assistant. He made a check 
mark in the book. 

Then a second member of the 
buffet group went pop. The masked' 
man stared in slack-jawed wonder. 
In fact his jaw went so slack the 
kerchief dropped away revealing his 
entire visage. He lowered his head 
and looked down at the gun in his 
hands; the gun that had not been 
fired. 

Two more members of Zinsky's 
party followed him into whatever 
oblivion was achieved by going pop 
and dissolving into dust. Uncle 
Peter evinced bright interest and 
made two more check marks in the 
book. 

The balance of the mob moved 
as one, but in many directions. They 
paid no : attention to their own 
weapons as they headed for cover. 
One of their number exploded as 
he was half way through the French 
doors. Uncle Peter checked him off 
;md Bag Ears said, "Jeeps! tomor- 
row every juke box in town can play 
'Nearer my God to Thee.' " Then 
hi- added, "Leave us blow this 
joint, (ioofy things is happening 
hen-. I don't like it." 



I was perspiring. I mopped my 
forehead. "A most amazing occur- 
rence," I observed. 

Joy was digging the fingers on 
one hand into my arm. I had been 
watching Hands McCaffery back 
crestfallen out of the living room 
and toward the front door, terrific 
slaughter having been accomplished 
without the firing of a shot. I 
turned my eyes now to follow the 
direction in which Joy pointed with 
her other hand and saw the blond 
assistant hauling Uncle Peter 
through one of the French win- 
dows. He did not seem to be en- 
thusiastic about leaving. In fact 
he appeared to argue quite strenu- 
ously against it, but her will pre- 
vailed and they disappeared out on- 
to the lawn. 

Now, with all the danger past, 
people began fainting in wholesale 
lots. Aunt Gretchen was resting 
comfortably with her head braced 
against the brass rail of the port- 
able bar. Those who didn't 
faint contributed variously tonated 
screams to the general unrest. And 
over all this brooded the dank 
clouds of acrid dust that bad so 
lately been Cement Mixer Zinsky 
and certain members of his mob. 
Indeed, the scene took on a start- 
ling semblance to one of Dore's 
etchings in an old edition of 
Dante's Inferno. 

"I repeat," Bag Ears bleated 
plaintively. "Leave us blow this 
joint. It ain't healthy here." 

"He's right," Joy said. "A lot. of 
explanation is wanting. There are 
some people we've got to catch up 
with. Let's go." 

With that, she drew Bag Ears and 



THAT'S HOW IT WAS, OFFICER 



113 



me toward the French doors 
through which had recently passed 
some of the fastest moving objects 
in this or any other world. We 
made the flag-stone terrace above 
the drive where Bag Ears cordially 
grasped my hand and said, 

"Well, it was a nice party, folks, 
and if I ever get spliced I'll sure 
give you a invite and I sure had a 
swell time and remember me to 
your aunt when she wakes up 
and—" 

He was backing down the steps 
when Joy cut in with, "Bag Ears. 
Don't be so rude. You're in no 
hurry." 

Bag Ears slowed down and al- 
lowed us to catch up with him. He 
gave us a sickly smile. "That's 
where you're wrong, babe." 

"Bag Ears," Joy went on. "I 
heard, you whisper to Homer that 
you know who that blonde is." 

"What blonde. Me? I don't 
know nothing about no blonde no- 
how." 

"Don't hedge. I mean the girl 
who was assisting Uncle Peter be- 
hind the bar. Who is she, really?" 

"Oh— her. Everybody knows her. 
She's Hands McCaffery's moll* He 
likes 'em blonde and' — " 

Bag Ears was on the move again, 
striding in the direction of the gate. 
We* hurried to catch up. "That 
babe's poison," he told us. "Any 
skirt that'd flock with Hands Mc- 
Caffery is poison. I'll tell you kids 
what I'd do. If she drives south — 
I'd drive north. Goodbye now." 

Just at that moment a big blue 
sports roadster pushed a bright 
chromium nose around the corner 
of the house. I took a firm grip on 



Bag Ears' collar, grabbed Joy by 
the arm, and the three of us leaped 
behind a bush. The car rolled past 
us. We saw the blonde behind the 
wheel and Uncle Peter seated be- 
side her, evidently still protesting 
the hasty exodus. 



BUT the girl looked very sharp 
and businesslike; the way a girl 
would look who knew where she 
was going and why. The car picked 
up speed and swung north. 

"I wonder," Joy murmured, 
"how Uncle Peter happened to se- 
lect Hands McCaffery's girl friend 
as his assistant." ,> 

"She was a burlycue queen last 
time I heard of her," Bag Ears said. 
"Still is I guess." . 

"That could explain it," I told 
Joy. "You see Uncle Peter has — ah, 
facets to his personality. A tendency 
to admire women. Ah — " 

"Women— period ; isn't thatwhat 
you mean?" 

"Well, it would be perfectly log- 
ical for Uncle Peter to select an as- 
sistant from the stage of a bur- 
lesque theater." 

"Enough of this," Joy snapped. 
"We're wasting time. Go get — oh, 
never mind ! Wait here." 

Joy was off in the direction of 
the garage and in no time at all she 
was back in my Cadillac convert- 
ible. As she sailed by I managed to 
hook a finger around the door han- 
dle and get a foot inside. 

This was no mean feat, as I was 
also oecupied in hauling Bag Ears 
along by the collar. I managed to 
deposit him in the seat beside Joy 
and squeeze in beside him. 



114 



RALPH SHOLTO 



"A burlycue queen, eh?" Joy was 
muttering. "Well, she's not so 
much! If she couldn't get her 
clothes off she'd starve to death." 

"Darling," I said. "I don't think 
this is the sort of thing you should 
be doing. It's far too dangerous for 
a girl." 

"Or anybody else," Bag Ears 
•moaned. There was a bleak look on 
his face. "I don't like playing 
around with a guy like Hands Mc- 
Caffery or friends of a guy like him. 
It's a good way to collect your in- 
surance." 

"She's heading for Higgins 
Drive," Joy observed. 

Which was entirely true. The 
roadster had made a turn on two 
wheels and was going west. 

"But our honeymoon," I said, 
plaintively. 

"Yeah," Bag Ears repeated, 
"what about our— your honey- 

Joy's eyes were sparkling. She 
turned them on me. The car 
lurched. She returned her eyes to 
the road. "Yes, darling. Our honey- 
moon! Isn't it wonderful?" 

"But this isn't it! This isn't what 
people do on their honeymoons." 

"Oh, you mean — but don't worry 
about that, darling. We'll have 
plenty of time for — " 

"Lemme out o' here," Bag Ears 
moaned. "I got a date to take Red 
Nose Tessie to the movies." 

Joy apparently did not hear him. 
"I wish we had all the parts to this 
puzzle. It looks as though somebody 
put somebody on the spot for a rub- 
out. But it would seem that some- 
body else got the same idea but 
didn't know that somebody else was 



going to achieve the same result in 
a more spectacular way and — " 

"I think you've figured it out 
most accurately." 

"Some of it fits together. Uncle 
Peter was no doubt responsible for 
the Zinsky boys coming to our re- 
ception. We'll get the dope on that 
when we catch up with him. But 
the blonde must not have known 
what was going to happen, so she 
tipped Hands off that he could find 
the whole Zinsky mob at the recep- 
tion. He decided it would be a good 
place to settle certain matters of 
his own." 

"But why did Uncle Peter want 
them there?" 

Joy glanced at me with love in 
her eyes. "Darling, we're going to 
be wonderful companions through 
life, but most of the fun will be 
strictly Physical. Mental exercises 
aren't your forte." 

"When Red Nose Tessie makes a 
date with a guy," Bag Ears said, 
"she expects the guy to keep it." 

"The blonde Cora is no doubt 
heading for a rendezvous with 
Hands McCafFery," Joy went on. 
"And she's taking our dear uncle 
with her." 

"Okay," Bag Ears replied. "So 
we mind our business and keep our 
noses clean and live a long time." 

Joy was weaving through traffic, 
trying to keep the roadster in sight. 
"Turn on the radio," she told me. 
"There might be some news." 

I snapped the switch and we dis- 
covered there was news indeed; an 
evening commentator regaling the 
public with the latest: 

" — an amazing mass phenomena 
which leading scientific minds have 



THAT'S HOW IT WAS, OFFICER 



115 



pronounced to be basically similar 
to the flying saucer craze. Relative 
to that— you will remember— oth- 
erwise reliable citizens swore they 
saw space ships from other planets 
hovering over our cities spying on 
us. 

"This phase of the hysteria takes 
an entirely different turn. It seems 
now that these otherwise entirely re- 
liable citizens are seeing other citi- . 
zens explode and vanish into thin 
air. The police and the newspapers 
have been deluged with frantic tel- 
ephone calls. In the public interest, 
we have several persons here in the 
studio who claim to have seen this 
phenomena. Your commentator 
will now interview them over the 
air. You — you, sir — what is your 
name r 

"Sam— Sam Glutz." 

"Thank you, Mr. Glutz. And will 
you tell the radio audience what 
ypu saw?" 

"It wasn't nothing — nothing at 
all. That is — this guy was running 
down the street like maybe the cops 
was after him— -I don't know. Then 
— there wasn't nothing." 

"You mean the man disap- 
peared?" 

"He went pop, kind of- — like a 
firecracker only not so loud — and 
then pieces of him flew all over and 
they disappeared and there wasn't 
nothing — nothing at all." 

"Thank you, Mr. Glutz. And 
now this lady — " 

"Turn it off," Joy snapped. "The 
blonde's pulling up." 



THIS was evident to all three of 
us. "And by a cop yet," Bag 



Ears marveled. "Looks like they're 
going to give theirselves up." 

It was Uncle Peter who got out 
of the car and approached the traf- 
fic officer standing at the intersec- 
tion . 

"What'U we do?" Joy asked. "Do 
you want to try and keep the old 
goat out of jail or shall we let him 
go to the chair as he deserves?" 

The possibility stunned me to a 
point where it was hard to think 
clearly. "Good Lord, Joy! Think of 
the scandal! I don't care about my- 
self, but Aunt Gretchen would 
never live it down! She'd be black- 
balled at all her clubs and — " 

"Then," Joy replied sweetly, "I'd 
suggest you get out and slug that 
cop quick and grab Uncle Peter be- 
fore he makes a confession." 

I had come to the cross-roads, so 
to speak. The necessity of a weighty 
decision lay upon my shoulders. 
Was blood thicker than water? Was 
I justified in breaking the law— as- 
saulting an officer in order to keep 
my uncle from becoming a blot on 
the family name? 

I decided, grimly, that one owed 
all to one's relatives and I was 
halfway out of the car. Then I 
paused. Uncle Peter did not seem 
to be making a confession at all. He 
chatted easily with the officer and 
indicated my Cadillac with a 
movement of his thumb. Something 
passed from his hand to the hand 
of the policeman and the latter 
looked toward us and scowled. 

"Uncle Peter is pulling a fast 
one," Joy said. "The cop's coming 
after us!" 

I was uncertain as how to pro- 
ceed now. I watched the scowling 



116 



RALPH SHOLTO 



policeman approach our car while 
Uncle Peter got back in with the 
blonde Cora and drove away. 

"Are you going to hang one on 
him sweetheart?" Joy asked. 

"What — what do you recom- 
mend?" 

"I've got a hunch that rf you 
don't we go to the pokey and Uncle 
Peter will be left free to blow up 
everybody in town." 

I don't believe the officer meant 
to arrest us but at the moment my 
mind wasn't too clear and I ac- 
cepted Joy's point of view. 

I doubled my fist as the officer 
approached. He wasted no time in 
getting acquainted. He said, "How 
come you guys are tailing those 
guys? You figuring a stickup or 
something?" 

It was now or never. I hunched 
my right shoulder and aimed a stiff 
knockout jolt at the officer's jaw. It 
wasn't too good a target because he 
had a lantern jaw and it was bob- 
bing up and down as he munched 
on a wad of chewing gum. 

But I did not connect. As my fist 
completed but half its lethal orbit, 
the officer blew up in my face! He 
went pop just as so many others had 
gone pop at our wedding reception ; 
his entire anatomy flying in all di- 
rections, to turn into a cloud of 
sooty smoke and mix with the ele- 
ments. 

I was frozen with consternation. 
But not Joy. Instantly she dragged 
me back into the car. "Don't you 
mt it? Uncle Peter gave him that 
stick of gum!" 

"You're damn right!" Bag Ears 
stated. "The old monkey's gone 
flear off his trolley. Maybe he plans 



to clean out the whole town!" 

Joy, her eyes slitted, was weaving 
in and out of traffic so as not to lose- 
track of the blue roadster. "It's as 
plain as your nose! He's hand in 
glove with McCaffery and that 
blonde is bird-dogging him around 
town and pointing out McCaffery's 
enemies. Uncle Peter is knocking 
them off like clay pigeons." 

I was amazed at this revelation, 
but was also thunderstruck by the 
underworld jargon flowing so easily 
from Joy's luscious lips. "Angel," I 
gasped. "Where did you learn to 
talk like that? Those underworld' 
terms!" 

"I read all the true detective 
magazines I can get my hands on," 
she said. "They're good fun, but 
that's beside the point. We've got to 
nail Uncle Peter and nail him 
quick, or Aunt Gretchen will ring 
up a nice big zero in the social 
world." 

"How about nailing him without 
me?" Bag Ears suggested. "It's nine 
o'clock and Red Nose Tessie never 
likes to miss none of the show." 

"I'm sure, Bag Ears," Joy said, 
"that Tessie would sympathize with 
our efforts to keep Uncle Peter out 
of the electric chair." 

"I doubt it," he replied dubious- 
ly. "Tessie's brother got burned in 
Frisco for knocking over a bank 
clerk and Tessie never even attend- 
ed. Let him fry in his own grease 
was what she said about it." 

"Nevertheless," Joy said, "I have 
no time to stop and let you out." 

A fast, fifteen-block chase fol- 
lowed. Once we lost the blue road- 
ster completely, but by sheer luck, 
picked it up three blocks further on 



THAT'S HOW IT WAS, OFFICER 



117 



as it came wheeling out of a side 
street. 

We were in a quiet residential 
section now so there was no one to 
interfere as Joy skillfully forced the 
roadster to the curb. I jumped out 
and leaped swiftly toward the driv- 
er's door. 



THE blonde sat behind the wheel 
with a sullen look on her face. 
"What is this?" she asked. "A stick- 
up?" 

"Don't be vulgar," I replied. "We 
are here to take charge of my uncle. 
This weird slaughter must cease!" 

Joy was by my side now, but Bag 
Ears hung back as though some- 
what worried about the possible 
consequences of our act. 

I heard him muttering: "What 
if he can just shoot the stuff in your 
eye maybe? What if a guy doesn't 
have to swallow it—?" 

Joy's gayety was again coming 
to the surface. Her eyes were bright 
and I was struck by the fact that 
she seemed to thrive on this«sort of 
thing. "Hello, Blondy," she said. 
"Get out from behind—" 

The blonde's eyes threw sparks. 
"Who you think you're talking to, 
you lard — " 

"Not Truman," Joy said. "Now 
get-" 

I seized Joy's wrist. "Angel! He's 
gone! Uncle Peter isn't here!" I 
stared at Joy in horror. "Do you 
suppose he inadvertently chewed 
some of his own gum?" 

Joy did not reply. She shouldered 
me aside, opened the car door and 
surprised me by getting a very 
scientific grip on Cora. 



"Okay — where is he? What did 
you do with him?" 

"He's not here!" 

"Any fool can see that. Did he 
blow up?" 

"Of course not. He went to keep 
a date." 

The blonde jerked herself loose 
from Joy's hold and was sullenly 
straightening her clothing. "I don't 
see why you and Pretty Boy have 
to stick your big noses into this. It's 
none of your business." 

"We're making it our business." 

"You don't seem to realize," I 
said stiffly, "that Uncle Peter is very 
dear to me. He has performed some 
horrible deeds, and as his loving 
nephew — " 

The blonde seemed puzzled. 
"You're off your crock! Pete's okay. 
He just entered into a little private 
deal to help out Hands McCaf- 
fery. I don't see where it's anybody's 
business, either. If he wanted your 
help he'd ask for it!" 

It made my blood run cold to 
hear this girl refer so casually to the 
wholesale slaughter that had been 
going on around us. I strove to find 
words to shame her, but Joy cut in. 
And apparently my dear wife was 
more interested, at the moment, in 
the details of the affair rather than 
the morals involved. 

"McCaffery and Uncle Peter 
haven't got any deal," she said to 
the blonde. "You lie as easily as you 
undress. If they had an arrange- 
ment to knock off all those parties 
at our wedding reception, how 
come McCaffery brought a ma- 
chine gun along?" 

The blonde had an answer. 
"Hands was a little doubtful. He 



118 



RALPH SHOLTO 



didn't think Pete could do it — blow 
people into thin air just from some- 
thing they et. He was willing to go 
along with the gag but he wasn't 
going to pass up an opportunity to 
rub out the Zinsky gang — or as 
many as he could hit — if the gim- 
mick didn't click. That's why he 
brought the Tommy — just in case." 
Joy turned to me. "It fits," she 
said. "I've been trying to give Uncle 
Pete the benefit of every doubt but 
it looks as though you've got a mad 
dog sniffing at the trunk of your 
family tree." 



CORA frowned. "You've got him 
all wrong. He's not — " 

I continued with the questioning. 
"You are denying that Uncle Peter 
had anything to do with this deadly 
serum that disintegrates people be- 
fore one's eyes?" 

"I'm not denying it." 

"Then it follows that your moral 
sense is so badly corroded you no 
longer consider murder to be a 
crime — " 

"Now listen here!" 

"In law," I went on, "the vic- 
tim's standing in society is not taken 
into consideration where murder is 
involved. It is just as wrong in the 
eyes of the law to murder Cement 
Mixer Zinsky as the pastor of the 
First Congregational Church." 

The blonde looked wonderingly 
at Joy. "Is this guy for real?" 

Joy reestablished her hold upon 
the blonde's anatomy. "Never mind 
ili.it. All we want from you is an- 
swer*. Whore did Uncle Peter go? 
Tell me!" 

"Nuts to you!" Cora replied. "He 



doesn't want you bothering him." 

Joy applied pressure. Cora 
squealed but remained mute. I 
stepped forward. "Darling," I said 
grimly. "This sort of thing is not 
in your line. I realize this woman 
must be made to talk so I will take 
over. It will be distasteful to me, 
but duty is duty." 

I got a withering look from my 
dear wife. "Distasteful? In a pig's 
eye! You'd like nothing better than 
to get your hands on her — by way 
of duty of course." 

"Joy!" 

"Don't Joy me;" And with an 
expert twist, she flipped the strug- 
gling Cora out of the roadster, 
goose-stepped her across and into 
the back seat of the Cadillac. 

"You and Bag Ears get in and 
start driving — slow. I'll have some 
answers in a minute or two." 

We did as we were told and I 
eased the car away from the curb. 
I had to watch the road, of course, 
so could not turn to witness what 
was going on rearward. In the mir- 
ror I saw flashes of up-ended legs 
and, from time to time, other and 
sundry anatomical parts that flew 
up in range only to vanish again as 
the grim struggle went on. 

Bag Ears, however, turned to wit- 
ness the bringing forth of the an- 
swers. His first comment was, "Oh 
boy!" 

Joy was breathing heavily. She 
said, "Okay, babe. Talk, or I'll put 
real pressure on this scissors!" 

Bag Ears said, "Man oh man!" 

Joy said, "Quit gaping, you 
moron! I'm back here too." 

I gave Bag Ears a stern admoni- 
tion to keep his eyes front. 



THAT'S HOW IT WAS, OFFICER 



119 



"Give," Joy gritted. 

"Ouch! No!" 

"Give!" 

Cora gave forth an agonized 
wail. Then an indignant gasp. "Cut 
it out! You fight dirty! That ain't 
fair!" 

"Give!" 

"All right! All right. Pete's meet- 
ing Hands at — ouch — Joe's— ^ouch 
—Tavern on Clark Street. Ouch! 
Cut it out, will you?" 

And it was here that I detected 
a trace of sadism in my lovely wife. 
"All right," she said regretfully. 
"Sit up. Gee but you talk easy." 

"Just where is this tavern?" I 
asked. "And what is the purpose of 
the meeting?" 

Cora's resistance was entirely 
gone. "In the 2800 block. Pete went 
there to get some money from 
Hands to skip town with." 

Joy now spoke with relish. "Ly- 
ing again. I'll have to—" 

"I ain't lying!" 

"Don't give us that! Uncle Peter 
is wealthy. He doesn't need Hands' 
money. Come here baby." 

"Wait, Joy," I cut in hastily. 
"The young lady may be telling the 
truth. Uncle Peter is always short 
of funds. You see, Aunt Gretchen 
holds the purse strings in our family 
and Uncle Peter is always over- 
drawn on his allowance." 

"Then let's get to that tavern and 
find out what's going on." 

It took ten minute's to reach the 
tavern; a standard gin mill with a 
red neon sign proclaiming its pres- 
ence. We quitted the car and I en- 
tered first, Joy bringing Cora along 
with a certain amount of force, and 
Bag Ears bringing up the rear. 



And I was just in time to prevent 
another murder. 

As I came through the door, I 
saw Hands and Uncle Peter leaning 
casually against the bar. There was 
no one else in the place. The bar- 
keep was facing his two customers 
and there were three glasses set 
before them. The barkeep held one 
in his hand. 

Uncle Peter had just finished 
spiking the barkeep's drink with a 
clear fluid from a small vial. Uncle 
Peter said, "It's something new I 
invented. Pure dynamite. You 
haven't lived until you've tasted my 
elixir." 



HANDS said, "Go ahead. Drink 
it. I want to make sure I wasn't 
seeing things back at that dame's 
house." 

The barkeep said, "Pure dyna- 
mite huh?" 

"Your not fooling, chum." 

He raised the glass and grinned. 
"Salud." 

I got to the bar just in time to 
knock the glass out of his hairy 
paw. He grunted, "What the hell — 
oh, a wise guy, huh?" and started 
over the bar. 

I yelled, "It's murder. They're 
trying to poison you!" 

"Oh, a crackpot!" 

He came toward me, shaking off 
Uncle Peter's restraining hand. I 
took a step backward, thankful he 
was coming in wide open because I 
had seen few tougher looking char- 
acters in my lifetime. 

I set myself and sent a short 
knockout punch against his chin. It 
was a good punch. Everything was 



120 



RALPH SHOLTO 



in it. It sounded like a sledge ham- 
mer hitting a barn door. 

The barkeep shook his head 
and came on in. I stepped back and 
slugged him again. No result. 

Then Joy slipped into the narrow 
space between us. She was smiling 
and with her upturned waiting lips, 
she was temptation personified. The 
barkeep dropped his hands, para- 
lyzed by her intoxicating nearness. 

She said, "Hello, Iron Head. 
How about you and I taking a little 
vacation together somewhere." 

He grinned and reached for her. 
This, it developed, was a mistake, 
because Joy reached for him at the 
same time. She lifted his two-hun- 
dred-odd pounds as though he were 
a baby and he went flying across the 
room like a projectile. He hit a 
radiator head-on and lay still. 

Again I was stupefied. It seemed 
I knew nothing at all about this 
girl I'd married. She smiled at me 
and said, "Don't be alarmed, angel. 
There's in explanation. You see my,, 
mother gave me money for piano 
lessons and I invested most of it in 
a course of ju-jitsu. I thought an 
occasion like this might arise some- 
time. Do you want to take McCaf- 
fery, or shall I do it? I doubt if he'll 
come to the station peaceably." 

But Hands McCaffery was not to 
he caught flatfooted. Without his 
machine gun he was just an ordi- 
nary little man who "didn't want to 
go with us. He took one look at the 
prone barkeep, muttered, "Geez!" 
and headed for the back door. 

"Get him," Joy yelled. "Maybe 
we can make a deal with the cops 
to fry Hands in place of Uncle 
Peter!" 



I started after Hands and as I 
went through the back door I heard 
Uncle Peter protesting feebly. "I 
say now. This is all uncalled for — " 

"Don't let him get away!" Joy 
called. "He's got the serum!" 

That cleared things up some- 
what and made me even more reso- 
lute. Evidently we had interrupted 
Uncle Peter and Hands in the proc- 
ess of doing away with all the lat- 
ter's enemies. With that bottle in his 
possession, he was a menace to the 
entire population of the city. A 
man of his type would certainly 
have far more enemies than friends. 

Outside in the dark alley, I was 
guided only by footsteps. The sound 
of Hands' retreat told me he was 
moving up the smelly passageway 
toward Division Street. I went after 
him. 

I am no mean sprinter, having 
won laurels in college for my fleet- 
ness in the two-twenty and the four- 
forty, and I had no trouble in over- 
taking the little assassin. We were 
fast approaching the alley entrance 
where I would have had the aid of 
street lights and could have swiftly 
collared McCaflfcry whose heavy 
breathing I could now hear — when 
disaster struck in the form of a 
painful obstacle. It was heavy and 
it caught me just below the knees. 

I tripped and fell headlong, 
plowing along a couple of yards. of 
slippery brick pavement on my 
face. I got groggily to my feet and 
shook my head to clear my brain. 
From the deposits of old eggs, re- 
jected tomatoes and other such 
refuse in my face and ears, I gath- 
ered that I had tripped over a gar- 
bage can. 



THAT'S HOW IT WAS, OFFICER 



121 



This delayed me for some mo- 
ments. When I finally staggered out 
into Division Street, a strange sight 
met my eyes. Hands McCaffery had 
been apprehended. It seemed that 
the police had orders to pick him 
up because two uniformed patrol- 
men had him backed against the 
wall and were approaching him 
with caution. They had him cov- 
ered and were taking no chances of 
his pulling a belly gun on them. 

But he did not draw a gun. In- 
stead, while I stared wide-eyed, he 
raised Uncle Peter's vial to his lips 
and drank the contents. 

I will not bore you with details 
of his going pop. If you have read 
this letter carefully, the details are 
not necessary. 

I turned and retraced my steps, 
realizing Hands McCaffery had 
been vicious and defiant to the last. 
Rather than submit to arrest, he 
had taken the wild animal's way 
out. 

I arrived back in Joe's Tavern to 
find the barkccp had been revived 
and bore none of us any ill-will. 
This no doubt because of Joy's per- 
suasive abilities. Cora was 'sulking 
in a booth and Uncle Peter was 
patching the gash on the barkeep's 
head. 



I ENTERED with a heavy heart, 
realizing, as a good citizen, I 
must turn my own uncle over to the 
police. But there was an interlude 
before I would be forced into this 
unpleasant task. This interlude was 
furnished by Bag Ears. After I ac- 
quainted the group with the news 
of how Hands had taken the easy 



way out, Bag Ears' face took on a 
rapt, silent look of happiness. He 
was staring at Joy. He said, "Pretty 
— very pretty!" 

Joy said, "Thank you." 

Bag Ears said, "Pretty — pretty — 
pretty." 

Joy looked at me. "What's eating 
him?" 

There was a bottle on the bar 
together with some glasses. I 
stepped over and poured myself a 
drink. I certainly needed it. "Bag 
Ears isn't referring to you, dear. 
He's alluding to his bells. He's 
hearing them again." 

"Oh my sky-blue panties! Pour 
me a drink." 

I complied. "You see Bag Ears is 
somewhat punch-drunk from his 
years in the prize ring. I've seen this 
happen before." 

We sipped our brandy and 
watched Bag Ears move toward the 
door. 

"That's the way it always is. 
When he hears the bells he feels a 
terrific urge to go forth and search 
for them. But he always ends up at 
Red Nose Tessie's and she takes 
him home. It's no use trying to stop 
him. He'll hang one on you." 

As Bag Ears disappeared into the 
street, there were tears in Joy's eyes. 
"He's dreaming of his bells," she 
murmured. "I think that's beauti- 
ful." She held up her glass. "May 
he find his bells. Pour me another 
drink." 

I poured two and we drank to 
that. 

"May we all someday find our 
bells," Joy said with emotion, and I 
was delighted to find my wife a 
girl of such deep sentiment. "Pour 



122 



RALPH SHOLTO 



me another." 

I did. "Your quotation was 
wrong, sweetheart," I said. "Don't 
you mean, 'May we all find our 
Shangri-La?' " 

"Of course. Let's drink to it." 

We drank to it and were rudely 
interrupted by the barkeep who 
said, "I hope you got some dough. 
That stuff ain't water." 

I gave him a ten dollar bill and 
— with a heavy heart — turned to 
Uncle Peter. "Come, Uncle," I 
said gently. "We might as well get 
it over with." 

"Get what over with?" 

"Our trip to the police station. 
You must give yourself up of 
course." 

"What for?" 

I shook my head sadly. Uncle 
Peter would never fry. His mind 
was obviously out of joint. "For 
murder." 

He looked at Joy. He said, "Oh, 
my broken test tube! There is no 
need of — " 

"I know it will be hard for them 
to convict you without corpus di- 
lecti, but you must confess." 

"Let's all go over to my labora- 
tory." 

"If you wish. You may have one 
last visit there." 

"Excellent — one last visit." He 
smiled and I wondered if I saw a 
certain craftiness behind it. 

Cora voiced no objections, seem- 
ingly anxious to stay near Uncle 
Peter. When we got to his labora- 
tory he went on through into his 
living quarters and took a suit case 
from the closet. 

"What are you going to do?" 

"Pack my things." 



"Oh, of course. You'll need some 
things in jail." 

"Who said anything about jail? 
I'm going to Tibet." 

"Tibet ! Uncle Peter! I won't al- 
low it. You must stay here and face 
the music." 

"The music is in Tibet, Homer. 
That's one of the reasons I'm going 
there. To a monastery high in 
Himalayas. There are some won- 
derful men there I've always 
wanted to meet— yogis who have 
such control over natural laws that 
they can walk on water and move 
straight through solid walls." 

"But Uncle Peter! If you want 
to go to Tibet, you should have 
thought of it before. It's too late 
now. You've committed murder." 

"Bosh! I haven't killed anyone. 
The serum I discovered is one of 
transition, not murder. It causes the 
stepping-up of the human physical 
structure into an infinitely higher 
rate of vibration. Two controls are 
distilled into it.. One is a timer that 
sets off the catalysis, and the other 
is a directive element based upori 
higher mathematics which allows 
the creator of the seru\n to direct 
the higher vibratory residue of the 
physical form to be put down at any 
prearranged point on the globe be- 
fore the reforming element takes ef" 
feet." 

Joy said, "Oh, my painted G- 
string !" 

I strove to absorb all this. "You 
mean those people weren't de- 
stroyed?" 

Joy was quicker on the reaction. 
"Of course. I couldn't picture 
Uncle Peter as a killer somehow. 
He merely picked them up here and 



THAT'S HOW IT WAS, OFFICER 



123 



set them down in Tibet. Can't you 
understand? He just explained it to 
you." 

Of course I didn't want to admit 
my mental haziness to Joy, so I 
skipped hastily over it and pointed 
an accusing finger at Uncle Peter. 
"But why couldn't you have con- 
ducted your experiments on a high- 
er plane. Why did you have to con- 
sort with law-breakers?" 



JOY had apparently lost interest. 
She planted a wifely kiss on my 
cheek and started toward the door. 
"I'm going back to Joe's Tavern," 
she said. "It's more fun there. 
When you get all this straightened 
out, come on over." 

I moved to protest but she waved 
me down. "Never mind. I'll take a 
cab." She smiled at me sweetly. 
"And don't stay too long, darling. 
I'm sure Cora is anxious to get her 
clothes off." 

Cora distinctly pronounced an 
unprintable name but Joy did not 
hear it. She was already gone. 

I turned to Uncle Peter. "You 
did not answer my question." 

"It's very simple. Even one of 
your limited brain power should be 
able to understand it. You see, with 
finishing my experiments I was not 
averse to doing the city a favor. 
Why not, I asked myself ; perform 
them upon persons undesirable to 
our law-abiding populace? Cora 
was acquainted with Hands Mc- 
Caffery and it was through him 
that I learned who the really unde- 
sirable people were." 

"But why did you invite them to 
my wedding reception? I'd think 



you could find a more appropriate 
place to carry out your—" 

"It was an ideal place to get the 
Zinsky mob together. Like your 
Aunt Gretchen, Mr. Zinsky has so- 
cial ambitions, and he anticipated 
no danger at the reception." 

"I can see your point." 

"Also, I wanted to get back at 
your Aunt Gretchen. She's been 
very niggardly with funds lately 
and I wanted to high light my dis- 
pleasure in a way she would re- 
member." 

I had a fairly clear picture of 
things now. But I still felt Uncle 
Peter should be upbraided on a last 
point. "Uncle Peter, I think it was 
shameful of you to inflict those 
hoodlums on the monks in that 
monastery in Tibet. They'll be in 
panic. 1 ' 

"No. I was careful to send along 
two policemen to keep them in 
hand." 

"So you're leaving for Tibet?" 

"Of course. I've got to follow up 
and check on the success of my 
serum, though there is really no 
doubt as to its potency. Also I'll be 
able to achieve a life -long ambition 
—that of meeting the yogis from 
whom I should learn a great deal." 

I glanced at Cora. "Are you tak- 
ing her with you?" 

"Of course." 

"But yogis are above things of 
the flesh." 

Uncle Peter looked me straight 
in the eye. "Maybe the yogis are, 
but I'm not." 

There seemed nothing else to dis- 
cuss, so I left Uncle Peter's cham- 
bers and went back to Joe's Bar. 
My mind, now at ease, was filled 



124 



RALPH SHOLTO 



again with thought of the honey- 
moon to come. I would pick up 
Joy and we would be off to pink- 
tinted lands. 

But there was> a slight hitch. 
When I arrived at Joe's Bar, Joy 
was gone. 

I inquired of the barkeep and he 
brought me up to date. "That 
screwy dame that can throw a guy 
around? Sure, she was here. She 
had a few drinks and then left 
agam. She said something about 
having to help a friend find some 
bells he lost. I don't know what 
kind of bells they was but that 



dame can locate them if anybody 
can." 

As I was about to leave the tav* 
em, it occurred to me you would 
want to know the truth of what's 
been going on, so I'm now in the 
backroom writing this report which 
I will drop into the nearest mail- 
box. Then I will go out and find 
my bride and start upon a well- 
earned honeymoon. If you have any 
questions, they'll have to wait until 
I get back. 

Yours truly, 

Homer Nicholas. 



THE END 



Quoting Our Contemporaries 



FANTASTIC ADVENTURES 
Lila Shaffer 

"The opportunity for glory still 
remains . . . for the first human to 
go into space. So far, no altitude 
flights beyond the atmosphere have 
been made. All high altitude work 
with Neptunes and V-2s still re- 
mains a matter of remote control, 
although in the near future, at- 
tempts will undoubtedly be made to 
send humans to altitudes greater 
than . . . one hundred miles. There 
is opportunity for immortality for 
somebody." 



RHOTQMAGNETIC DIGEST 
Les and Es JJole 

"Aside from the fact that some 
of the most 'adult' literature we've 
read has been 'esca'pist', we serious- 
ly question . . . (the) statement 
that . . . (science fiction) is trend- 
ing toward maturity and away from 
adventure stories. . . . We feel that 
the only science fiction magazines 
worth reading are ASF, GALAXY, 
and MAGAZINE OF FANTASY 
& SCIENCE FICTION. Below 
these we find most magazines oper- 
ating on the SSS policy: Sex, Sen- 
sationalism, and Shallow Plotting." 



They came to Mars inquiring after the 
stuff of Empire. They got — 



The 

TERRIBLE 
ANSWER 

By Arthur G. Hill 



THEY came down to Mars ahead 
of the rest because Larkin had 
bought an unfair advantage — a 
copy of the Primary Report. There 
were seven of them, all varying in 
appearance, but with one thing in 
common; in the eyes of each 
glowed the greed for Empire. They 
came down in a flash of orange tail- 
fire and they looked first at the 
Martians. 

"Green," marveled Evans. "What 
a queer shade of green!" 

"Not important," Cleve, the psy- 
chologist replied. "Merely a matter 
of pigmentation. White, yellow, 
black, green. It proves only that 
God loves variety." 

1 



"And lord how they grin!" 

Gleve peered learnedly. "Doesn't 
indicate a thing. They were born 
with those grins. They'll die with 
them.'' 

Of the seven strong men, Larkin 
exuded the most power. Thus, his 
role of leader was a natural one. 
No man would ever stand in front 
of Larkin. He said, "To hell with 
color or the shape of their mouths. 
What we're after lies inside. Come 
on. Let's set up a camp," 

"For the time being," Cleve cau- 
tioned, "we must ignore them. 
Later — we know what to do. I'll 
give the nod." 

They brought what they needed 



25 



126 



ARTHUR G. HILL 



out of the ship. They brought the 
plastic tents, broke the small, at- 
tached cylinders, and watched the 
tents bulge up into living quarters. 
They set up the vapor condensor 
and it began filling the water tank 
from the air about them. They 
plugged a line into the ship and at- 
tached it to the tent-line. Immedi- 
ately the gasses in the plastic tents 
began to glow and give off both 
light and heat. 

They did many things while the 
Martians stood silently by with 
their arms hanging, their splay-feet 
flat on the ground, their slash- 
mouths grinning. 

The seven sat down to their first 
meal under the Martian stars and 
while they ate the rich, delicate 
foods, they listened to the words of 
Larkin. "A new empire waiting to 
be built. A whole planet — virgin — 
new." 

"Not new," Dane, the archeolo- 
gist said. "It's older than Earth. It's 
been worked before." 

Larkin waved an impatient 
hand. "But hardly scratched. It can 
have risen and fallen a thousand 
times for all we care. The impor- 
tant thing is the vital ingredient of 
empire. Is it here? Can it be har- 
nessed? Are we or are we not, on 
the threshold of wealth, splendor, 
and progress so great as to take 
away the breath?" 

And as Larkin spoke, all seven 
men looked at the Martians ; looked 
covertly while appearing to study 
the rolling plain and the purple 
ridges far away; the texture of the 
soil; the color of the sky; the food 
on their plates; the steaming fra- 
grance of their coffee. They looked 



at all these things but they studied 
the Martians. 

"Stupid looking animals," Evans 
muttered. "Odd though. So like us 
- — yet so different." 

At first there had been only a 
handful of Martians to grin at the 
landing of the ship. Now they num- 
bered over a hundred, their ranks 
augmented by stragglers who came 
to stare with their fellows in happy, 
silence. 

"The prospects are excellent," 
Cleve said. Then he jerked his at- 
tention back to Larkin from whom, 
it had momentarily wandered.^ 
When Larkin spoke, one listened. 



LARKIN had been directing his 
words toward a young man 
named Smith. Smith had inherited 
a great deal of money which was 
fine. But Larkin wasn't too sure of 
his qualifications otherwise. " — the 
pyramids," Larkin was saying. 
"Would they have ever been built 
if the men up above — the men with; 
vision — had had to worry about a 
payroll?" 

Smith regarded the Martians 
with not quite the impersonal stare 
of the other six Earthlings. Once or 
twice he grinned back at them. 'Til 
grant the truth of what you say," 
he told Larkin, "but what good 
were the pyrajnids? Th ev ' re some- 
thing I could never figure." 

Smith had a sardonic twist of 
■ mouth that annoyed Larkin. "Let's 
not quibble, man. I merely used the 
pyramids as an example. Call them 
Empire; call them any Empire on 
Earth from the beginning of known 
history and let's face facts." 



THE TERRIBLE ANSWER 



127 



"Facts?" Smith asked. He had 
been looking at a six-foot-six Mar- 
tian, thinking what a magnificent 
specimen he was. If only they'd 
wipe off those silly grins. 

"Yes, facts. The building must 
be done. It is a law of nature. Man 
must progress or not. And what em- 
pire can arise without free labor? 
Can we develop this planet at 
union scale? Impossible! Yet it's 
crying to be developed." 

Cleve knocked the ashes off his 
cigar and frowned. Being a man of 
direct action, he inquired. "Do you 
want your money back, Smith?" 

The latter shook his head. "Oh 
no! Don't get me wrong, gentle- 
men. I'm for empire, first last and 
always. And if we can lay the 
foundations of one on the backs of 
these stupid creatures, I'm for it." 

"I still don't like your — " 

"My outspoken manner? Don't 
give it a thought, old man. I just 
don't want to be all cloyed up with 
platitudes. If we're going to chain 
the children of Israel into the house 
of bondage, let's get on with it." 

"I don't like your attitude," Lar- 
kin said stubbornly. "In the long 
run, it will benefit these people." 

"Let's say, rather, that it may 
benefit their children. I doubt if 
these jokers will be around very 
long after we start cracking the 
whip." 

Dane was stirred. "The whip," 
he murmured. "Symbol of empire." 
But nobody heard him. They were 
too busy listening to Larkin and 
Smith — -and watching the Mar- 
tians. 

The Martians stood around grin- 
ning, waiting patiently for some- 



thing to happen. Larkin's attitude 
toward them had changed again. 
First there had been curiosity. Then 
a narrow-eyed calculation; now he 
regarded them with contempt. The 
careful, studied checks and tests 
would be made of course. But Lar- 
kin, a man of sure instincts, had al- 
ready made up his mind. 

He stretched luxuriously. "Let's 
call it a day and turn in. Tomorrow 
we'll go about the business at hand 
with clearer heads," 

"A good idea," Cleve said, "but 
first, one little gesture. I think it 
would be judicious." He eyed the 
Martians, settling finally upon one 
~r~ a male — standing close and 
somewhat apart from the rest. 
Cleve scowled. Standing erect, he 
called, "Hey — you!" He interpreted 
the words with a beckoning gesture 
of his arm. "Come here! Here boy! 
Over here!" 

The Martian reacted with a 
typically Earthian gesture. He 
pointed to his own chest with one 
green finger, while a questioning 
expression reflected through the 
eternal grin. 

"Yes, you! On the double." 



THE Martian came forward. 
There was in his manner a slight 
hesitation, and Smith expected to 
see his hind quarters wriggle like 
that of a dog — uncertain, but eager 
to please. 

Cleve pointed with a martinet 
gesture toward the smoked-out 
cigar butt he'd thrown to the 
ground. "Pick it up!" 

The Martian stood motionless. 

"Pick — it — up, you stupid lout!" 




Larkin — now beyond sanity — 
was gibbering in the grave. 



THE TERRIBLE ANSWER 



129 



The Martians understood. With 
a glad little whimper, he bent over 
and took the cigar butt in his hand. 

"There," Cleve said. "Garbage 
can! Get it? Garbage can. Place for 
trash— for cigar butts. Put it in 
there." 

Smith wasn't sure whether the 
grin deepened or not. He thought 
it did, as the Martian laid the cigar 
butt carefully into the trash can. 

"Okay, you fella," Cleve barked, 
still scowling. "Back arid away now. 
Stay out there! Get it? Only come 
when you're called." 

It took a few eloquent gestures, 
including the pantomime of swing- 
ing a whip, before the Martian un- 
derstood and complied. After he 
backed into the circle of his fellows, 
Cleve dropped the cruel overseer 
manner and turned with satisfac- 
tion to Larkin. "I think there will 
be no trouble at all," he said. "To- 
morrow we'll really get down to 
cases. I predict smooth sailing." 

They said goodnight to each 
other and went about the business 
of preparing for slumber. As' he 
raised the glowing flap of his tent, 
Larkin saw Smith lounging in a 
chair before the electric heat unit. 
"Aren't you going to get some 
sleep?" 

"In a little while. I'm going to 
wait around until those two famous 
mbons come. Want to .see them first 
hand." 

"A 'waste of time," Larkin said. 
"Better keep your mind on more 
important things." 

"Goodnight," Smith said. Larkin 
did not reply, and Smith turned his 
head to look at the Martians. He 
wondered where they had corhe 



from. They probably had a village 
somewhere over the rise. He re- 
garded them without fear or appre- 
hension of what might occur during 
the sleeping hours. "He had read the 
Primary Report, brought back by 
the pioneer expedition. These peo- 
ple were entirely harmless. Also 
they were possessed of remarkable 
stamina. They had stood for days, 
watching the first expedition, grin- 
ning at it, without nourishment of 
any kind. 

Maybe they live off the atmos- 
phere, Smith told himself dream- 
ily. At any rate, they were ideal 
specimens to use as the foundation 
stones of an empire. He lay back, 
- thinking of Larkin ; he did not like 
Larkin personally, but he had to 
admire the steel in the man; the 
unswerving determination that had 
made him what he was. 

His mind drifted back to the 
things of beauty around him. The 
far purple ridges had changed now, 
as a light bloomed behind them to 
gleam like azure through old crys- 
tal. Then the two moons shot over 
the horizon; huge silver bullets rid- 
ing the thin atmosphere. 

The oldest planet. Had it ever 
been great? Were the bones of any 
dead civilizations mouldering be- 
neath this strange yellow soil? 
Smith closed his eyes while the cool 
Martian breezes soothed his face. 
Greatness. What was greatness after 
all? Merely a matter of viewpoint 
perhaps. 

Smith got up and moved slowly 
toward his tent. Out in the shadows 
he could feel the grins of the Mar- 
tians. "Goodnight," he called. 

But there was no answer. 



130 



ARTHUR G. HILL 



I PUT them out there," Cleve 
said. "It seemed as good a place 
as any." 

"Fine," Larkin rumbled. He wore 
boots 'and britches and a big, wide- 
brimmed hat. He had on soft leath- 
er gloves. He looked like an empire 
builder. 

The Martians were standing 
around grinning at the pile of 
shovels lying in the fuzz-bush. The 
Martians seemed interested and ap- 
peared to communicate with one 
another in some imperceptible man- 
ner. 

Larkin shoved through the circle 
of green men, pushing rudely. He 
stopped, picked up one of the 
shovels; thrust it toward a Martian. 
The Martian took it in his hands. 

"It's very important that you tell 
them— that you don't show them," 
Cleve said. "You must not do any 
of the work yourself." 

"I'll handle it," Larkin snapped. 
"Now you — all of you! Grab a 
shovel. Pick 'em up, see? Pick 'em 
up! We've got work to do. A ditch 
to dig." 

Larkin's pantomime was a uni- 
versal language. "We start the ditch 
here. Right here — you fella! Get 
digging! And put your back into 
that shovel. Hit h.ard or maybe it 
gives the whip — understand?" Lar- 
kin made a threatening motion to- 
ward the lash coiled, at his belt. 

Smith, already on the scene, 
turned as Evans and Dane arrived 
carrying undefined plastic. They 
snapped the cylinders and chairs 
appeared; chairs — and a table up- 
on which Garter and Lewis, bring- 
ing up the rear, placed a pitcher of 
lnur, glasses and a box of cigars. 



Cleve, the psychologist, looked 
with satisfaction upon the string of 
Martians manipulating the shovels. 
"All right," he said. "Let's sit down. 
Pour the beer, one of you." 

"Allow me," Smith said. He 
fought to straighten the smile bend- 
ing his lips. He picked up the 
pitcher and poured beer into the 
glasses. It all seemed so absurd; 
these grim-faced men acting out an 
asinine tableau. 

Cleve caught the smile, "I wish 
you'd take this seriously," he said'. 
"It's a mighty touchy and impor- 
tant business." 

"Sorry," Smith said, raising his 
glass. "Here's to empire." 

Larkin was striding up and down 
the line of straining Martians. The 
scowl had become a part of him. 

It's getting him, Smith marveled. 
Act or no act, he likes it. Experi- 
ment or not, he's in his element. 

The six men sat drinking their 
beer and watching Larkin. But only 
Cleve was aware of the skill with 
which the man worked. The grad- 
ual ! application of pressure ; the 
careful moving forward from bog 
to bog with the path of retreat al- 
ways open. From sharpness to 
brusqueness. From the brusque to 
the harsh. From the harsh to the 
brutal. 

"Will you tell me," Smith asked, 
"why we have to sit here drinking 
like a pack of fools? I don't like 
beer." 

"I'm not enjoying it, either," 
Cleve said. "But you can certainly 
understand that the roles must be 
set right from the beginning. They 
must understand we are their mas- 
ters, so we must conduct ourselves 



THE TERRIBLE ANSWER 



131 



in that manner. Never any sign that , 
could be interpreted as compro- 
mise." 

Larkin, satisfied with the prog- 
ress of the entirely useless ditch, 
came to the table and raised a glass 
of beer. He wiped the foam from 
his mustache and asked, "What do 
you think?" directing the question 
toward Cleve. 



THE latter regarded the sweating 
Martians with calculating eyes. 
"It's going entirely as I predicted. 
The next step is in order, I be- 
lieve." 

"You think it's safe?" 

"I'm certain of it." 

Smith, studying Larkin, saw the 
latter smile, and was again struck 
by its quality. 

Whatever the test, Larkin' s for it, 
even above the call of scientific ex- 
perimentation. 

Larkin was uncoiling the whip 
from his belt. H e strode toward the 
fast-deepening ditch. He selected a 
subject. "You — fella. You're lazy, 
huh? You like to gold-brick it? 
Then see how you like this!" He 
laid the whip across the green 
shoulders of the Martian. 

The Martian winced. He raised 
an arm to shield off the whip. 
Again it curled against his flesh. He 
whimpered. His grin was stark, in- 
quiring. 

"Hit that shovel, you green bas- 
tard!" Larkin roared. 

The Martian understood. So did 
the other Martians. Their muscles 
quivered as they drove into their 
work. 

Larkin came back, smiling— al- 



most dreamily, Smith thought. 
Cleve said, "Excellent. I'd hardly 
hoped for such conformity. Hardly 
expected it." 

"You mean," Smith asked, "that 
this little scene can be projected 
from a dozen to a hundred? From 
a hundred to a thousand — ?" 

"From this little plot to the whole, 
surface of the planet," Cleve said. 
"The mass is nothing more than a 
collection of individuals. Control 
the individual and you've got the 
mob. That is if you follow through 
with the original method. Set the 
hard pattern." 

"Then we're in — is that it? 
They've passed every test with fly- 
ing colors." 

"I'm sure they will," Cleve said, 
frowning. "But we must be thor- 
ough." 

"There's still another test?" 

"Yes. The test of final and com- 
plete subservience. It must be prov- 
en beyond all doubt that they know 
their masters." 

"You don't think they're aware 
yet that we are their masters?" 

"I'm sure they know. It only re- 
mains to be proven." Cleve glanced 
up at Larkin. "Maybe this is as far 
as we should go today. We've made 
marvelous progress." 

That characteristic wave of Lar- 
kin's hand; the gesture of the em- 
pire builder brushing away moun- 
tains. "Why wait? I want to get this 
thing over with. You- said yourself 
they're under our thumb." 

Cleve pondered, staring at the 
Martians. "Very well. There's really 
no reason to wait." 

Larkin smiled and turned toward 
the diggers, only half visible now 



132 



ARTHUR G. HILL 



from the depths of the ditch. He 
walked forward, appearing to ex- 
ercise more care, this time, in the 
selection of his subject. Finally, he 
pointed at one of the Martians. 
"You— fella! Come here!" • 

Several of them looked at one 
another a trifle confused. "You — 
damn it! What are you waiting 
for?" 

One of them climbed slowly from 
the trench. While he was engaged 
in so doing, Smith noticed two 
things. He saw the look of rage, 
simulated or otherwise, that came 
into Larkin's face. And he saw 
Cleve's fingers tighten on the edge 
of the table. 

Larkin had a gun in his fist; a 
roar in his voice. "When I talk — 
you jump! Get that? All of you!" 

He fired three bullets into the 
Martian's brain. The latter slumped 
grinning to the ground. Larkin, his 
breath coming jerkily, stood poised 
on the balls of his feet. The men at 
the table sat frozen — waiting. 
Around them — on the plain — some 
two hundred Martians stood mo- 
tionless. 

"The final test, Smith thought. To 
prove they're cattle. 



A FULL minute passed after the 
echo of the gun faded out. Si- 
lence. 

And nothing. 

The Earthmen picked up their 
breathing where they'd dropped it. 
Larkin's breath exploded in savage 
voice — triumphant voice. The Mar- 
tians were his. 

"Come on, some of you! Dig a 
hole and bury that carrion! And if 



anybody still wonders who's boss 
around here — let him step for- 
ward!" 

"They took it !" Cleve whispered. 
"Glory be— -they took it!" 

Four Martians climbed grinning 
from the trench. They faced Larkin 
and stood as though awaiting in- 
structions. 

"Dig there," Larkin said. 

They went stolidly to work and 
Larkin pocketed his gun, making 
the pocketing a gesture of con- 
tempt. 

"You see," Cleve said, with the 
tone of one explaining an abstract 
problem, "we were at somewhat of 
a disadvantage because they are in- 
capable of indicating emotion by 
facial expression. Thus the last test 
was necessary. If we could have 
judged the degree of fear previous- 
ly instilled, that last might not have 
been necessary." 

"Just as well to have a double 
check nontheless," Dane said. 
"Look at them! You'd think noth- 
ing out of the ordinary had hap- 
pened." 

Larkin strode back to the table. 
"Glad we got it over with," he said. 
"Now we know. Cleve can head 
back for Earth tomorrow. Initial 
supplies will come to about twenty 
million, I estimate. The rest of us 
can stay here and really drive these 
beggars. Get the foundations dug; 
get the rock down from the hills." 

"A planet in glorious resurrec- 
tion," said Dane, the poet of the 
group. 

"They've got the grave dug," 
Cleve observed. "They're waiting 
for orders." 

"Such cattle," Evans muttered. 



THE TERRIBLE ANSWER 



133 



Larkin strode back to the grave. 
He pointed. "Him — body into the 
grave. Snap into it. We've got work 
to do." 

The Martians put the body into 
the grave. 

Then a tall, green man appeared 
behind Larkin. He put his arms 
around Larkin's body. Another 
Martian took the gun from Larkin's 
pocket. 

And they pushed the screaming 
Earthman down into the grave. 

Smith sprang to his feet. "For 
God's sake!" 

"Sit down, you fool!" Cleve 
hissed. "Do you want to die? We've 
miscalculated. Something's wrong." 

The big Martian was standing 
on Larkin. The others threw in the 
soil. Larkin, now beyond sanity, was 



gibbering like an animal. 

Smith sat down. The Earthman 
presented a frozen tableau. Soon 
the gibbering could no longer be 
heard and the big Martian stepped 
out of the grave. 

"Leave everything," Cleve whis- 
pered. "Get up very casually and 
walk back to the ship. Get inside 
it." 

"May God help us," Dane 
quavered. 

"Shut up! Act natural." 

They went back and got into the 
ship while the Martians stood 
patiently about waiting for some- 
thing to happen. Their patience 
was rewarded when the ship arose 
on a great flaming tail from the sur- 
face of the planet. 

It was a sight worth waiting for. 



THE END 



They Called Her "Crazy Bet" 



FOR MORE than 20 years 
Richard Wilmer Rowan has 
made a professional study of secret 
service, espionage and spy systems 
the world over. At night cloak-and- 
dagger ghosts prowl the streets 
around his Jersey City home ! And 
why not? A glimpse into his tre- 
mendous files would reveal murder, 
chicanery, intrigue, theft, arson, 
rape, treachery, mayhem, sabotage, 
et cetera, et cetera; skeletons in the 
closets of nations and empires, why 
wars have been won and lost, why 
nations have risen and fallen! 

One case is that of Miss Eliza- 
beth Van Lew, belle of the old 
southern aristocracy, who did more 



to defeat her native South than an 
army of Yankee troops. For more 
than four years her fantastic spy 
ring operated right in the middle of 
Richmond, Virginia, capital of the 
Confederacy! Not even Jefferson 
Davis himself escaped her probing 
tentacles. 

The amazing story of her ex- 
ploits — They Called Her "Crazy 
Bet" — is in the July issue of 
STRANGE. Mr. Rowan places 
Miss Van Lew among the first ten 
spy masters in the annals of modern 
espionage. Here is the fascinating 
story that tells why! Get STRANGE 
at your neighborhood newsstand — 
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I 1^1 ■ Ml * !■*! ■ 



Personalities 



IN SCIENCE FICTION 



CHARLES FORT 

His objectives fade 
in the West 

ON A certain January evening 
in 1931, a group of promi- 
nent gentlemen gathered in the 
New York flat of one Charles Hoy 
Fort, a resident of the Bronx. Pres- 
ent were Theodore Dreiser, Burton 
Rascoe, Harry Elmer Barnes, John 
Cowper Powys, Booth Tarkington, 
Harry Leon Wilson, Ben Hecht, 
Alexander Woollcott, Clarence Dar- 
row, J. David Sterne, Aaron Suss- 
man, and several others, including 
H. Allen Smith who later wrote an 
amusing, though somewhat inaccu- 
rate, account of the proceedings. 
The purpose of the meeting was the 
establishment of a Fortean Society, 
to carry on the work of Charles 
Fort and to spread his ideas. 

Fort surely needs no introduc- 
tion to devotees of science fiction 
and fantasy. Indeed, he may well be 
termed the spiritual father of both 
these literary fields. It was recently 
proposed to form a club that would 
be called, "Writers Who Have Sto- 
len Plots From Charles Fort." The 
idea was dropped, however, when 

1 



it was realized that such a group 
would include virtually every mod- 
ern writer in the imaginative field, 
including many now deceased. At 
least a dozen novels and hundreds 
of short stories have been based di- 
rectly or indirectly on ideas set forth 
in Fort's four books— Lo, The Book 
of the Damned, Wild Talents, and 
New Lands. 

Nor is this surprising, because 
Fort's books are a compilation — 
documented, indexed, classified — of 
strange, eerie, and inexplicable oc- 
currences on this supposedly mun- 
dane earth of ours — happenings far 
more strange than the most imag- 
inative fictioneer ever dreamed up. 

Through the pages of Fort's 
books stalk unknown animals, alien 
races, visitants from other planets, 
survivals of strange cults, showers 
of amazing objects and living enti- 
ties, teleportations, and people pos- 
sessed of powers bordering on the 
supernatural. There are accounts of 
men who could not be caught; men 
who could not be seen; men who 
could not be hung. The maddest 
menagerie and freak show ever as- 
sembled under one canvas. 

Fort's sources were always fairly 
reputable; newspapers, police blot- 
ters, and even scientific publications 
and text books. Yet they were wide- 
34 



SCIENCE FICTION 



135 



ly ignored by a world unable to fit 
them into definite category; a world 
which preferred to relegate them to 
oblivion as damned by orthodox 
science, yet well attested. The works 
of Charles Fort are startling to the 
eye; nightmarish to the mind. 

Of course, they may not all be 
true, those amazing pecople, things, 
and occurrences which were the de- 
light of Fort's life. Indeed, there is 
strong evidence that Fort himself 
did not actually believe all of them, 
or the theories he drew from them. 
*Many are unquestionably hoaxes, 
arising from the most gargantuan 
sense of humor in modern letters. 



PHYSICALLY, Fort was an al- 
most exact double for the screen 
comediant, Chester Conklin. And 
he was also, pure Mack Sennett in 
mentality. His books were written 
with a slapstick more so than with 
a pen, and are one long guffaw from 
start to finish, interlarded with con- 
ceits and wisecracks to a degree 
which sometimes offends the seri- 
ous reader. 

Still, Fort himself invented noth- 
ing. He simply set down what had 
previously been recorded by thou- 
sands of observers all over the world. 
This would seem to mitigate against 
hoaxing in any marked degree by 
Fort himself. Certainly there is 
nothing obviously faked in his 
books. No complete check of Fort's 
works has ever been made of course. 
It would take a lifetime. But spot 
checks have been made, and all de- 
tails, as set down by Fort, have 
been found to be correct. The phe- 
nomena were observed — or at least 



vast numbers of disinterested per- 
sons believed they observed them. 
Moreover, evidence continues to 
pour in that the phenomena have 
continued since Fort's death. 

The number of Fortean occur- 
rences in recent years has been start- 
ling. Certainly his books would 
have been hugely expanded had he 
lived on. In one department alone 
— : the flying saucers — more phe- 
nomena have accumulated in the 
last four years than in the preced- 
ing century. 

At the time Fort wrote The Book 
of the Damned, no one but he him- 
self believed in flying saucers. Now 
it is safe to say that a vast minority 
— possibly even a majority — of peo- 
ple do believe in them, though they 
may have varied theories of explan- 
ation. 

So, at the very least, Fort's theo- 
ries deserve investigation. And it is 
highly unlikely that they will get it 
from the orthodox scientists. Sci- 
ence has become a bit more broad- 
minded since Fort's day, what with 
Einstein and the atomic bomb. Still, 
the scientific attitude remains pretty 
much that of a prominent physicist 
who made assertion that while a 
certain dogmatism may have existed 
once, it has vanished forever; that 
today, savants are wholly open- 
minded, and ready to investigate 
anything without preconceptions. 
"Do you mean," he was asked, 
"that if a werewolf were brought 
into your laboratory, you would in- 
vestigate it without prejudice?" 
The physicist shrugged. "Oh well," 
he murmured, "of course there are 
no werewolves." 

Hence, an organization wholly 



136 



PERSONALITIES 



dedicated to the collection and in- 
vestigation of Fortean phenomena 
is not only desirable, but necessary 
if anything is ever to be learned at 
all. It is clear, however, that the 
present Fortean Society is not that 
organization and shows no sign of 
so becoming. 

It would appear that the group 
is in the hands of the wrong people 
— or rather, the wrong person. 
Even that group of original found- 
ers, though admittedly eminent, 
were not fantasy or science fiction 
writers; nor were they even stu- 
dents of the subjects. Of the lot, 
only W'oollcott and Hecht dabbled 
in the field of fantasy. 



A FEW stf and fantasy writers 
have joined the society since 
the enrollment of the original ros- 
ter. A. Merritt belonged until his 
death, and Ivan T, Sanderson, the 
"weird naturalist" who discovered 
evidences of many strange crea- 
tures, is a present member. But such 
men are few in the Fortean ranks 
and have nothing whatever to do 
with running the society. Indeed, 
they do not even seem to be wel- 
comed. _ 
The whole organization has grav- 
itated into the hands of one man, 
the original secretary, Tiffany 
Thayer. Six of the founders, be- 
ginning with Dreiser, e'dited one is- 
sue each of the society's publication 
— Doubt — then gradually dropped 
out. Thayer has edited all subse- 
quent issues of the organ, collects 
the money, and handles all the cor- 
respondence. To all practical pur- 
poses, he is the society. 



Nor, so far as can be learned, has 
Thayer much in the way of quali- 
fications for that role apart from 
having taken it over. He was a pro- 
fessional writer, but not in the least 
along Fortean lines. Now, he ap- 
parently uses the society as a vehicle 
for his own ideas and promotions 
with no check whatsoever upon his 
authority. 

The members of the San Fran- 
cisco branch discovered this last, 
much to 'their sorrow, a couple of 
years ago. The chapter, made up 
largely of writers, artists, students 
of bizarre subjects, and all Fortean 
devotees, was not only the second 
largest in the country, but the first 
to hold regular meetings and in- 
vestigate phenomena as a group. 
Meeting, in the Writer's Workship 
of Kenneth MacNickoll, on Lom-, 
bard Street, its gatherings often 
numbered fifty or more. It gath- 
ered and forwarded large amounts 
of data, none of which ever ap- 
peared in the Fortean magazine. 
. Thayer was critical of the chap- 
ter from the beginning, since it in- 
sisted on following straight Fortean 
lines. "Most of the members," he 
complained in a letter, "are not so 
much concerned with two-headed 
calves as with other rebellions." 

Finding the chapter adamant, 
Thayer resorted to stronger meas- 
ures. He simply excommunicated 
the entire unit, forbidding it to use 
the society's name in research, or to 
hold further meetings. Seeking to 
appeal his decision, the chapter 
found that there was no one to ap- 
peal to. The original founders are 
all either dead or quiescent, and 
Thayer rules alone. 



SCIENCE FICTION 



137 



Virtually all the local member- 
ship resigned in a body, and will in 
the future have nothing to do with 
the society, although it retains en- 
thusiasm for Fort and his ideas. 

Thayer, (riding high in the sad- 
dle, publishes the society organ — 
Doubt — and is cotnplete master of 
its policy and content. Apart from 
advertising Fort's works, it blurbs, 
chiefly, two totally un-Fortean 
tomes, entitled, America Needs In- 
dians, and Raped Again! The latter 
is described as "a blueprint for en- 
slaving whole populations." 

So far as is known, Fort wasn't 
interested in enslaving populations. 

In an appended list of some 
twenty publications offered for sale 
by the society, only one — a tiny 
pamphlet on an alleged sea-ser- 
pent off the New England coast — 
remotely resembles Fort. 

THE editorial tone of the mag- 
azine is a far cry from the lusty 
and lamented Fortean days. Filled 
with sophomoric humor, continual 
reference to newspapers is made by 
using the term "wypers". Irony is 
laid on with a trowel. Good taste 
goes by the boards. 

The pretense is consistently main- 
tained that the formation date of 
the society was the year One, 
and all items are double-dated in 
order to add to the confusion. 
Thayer seems to write most of the 
material himself, although an oc- 
casional article creeps in by other 
authors — mainly mathematical and 
usually unintelligible. 

Extracts from the notes of Fort 
are published in a special section 



in the rear of each issue. Thus has 
the old master been relegated to 
the morgue. And the worse, because 
the notes are usually meaningless, 
the references done in a cryptic sort 
of shorthand, and no attempt made 
to translate or develop them. 

An occasional note on phenome- 
na occurs now and then, but is 
usually slanted to make political 
preachment. A sad irony, since Fort 
eschewed politics wholly and never 
wrote a line in that direction. 

Thayer, during World War II, 
sniped at the allied side in every is- 
sue, violently attacking Civil De- 
fense among other things. Later he 
hailed the escape of Gerhardt Eisler 
as the "most Fortean event" of its 
period. Garey Davis, the curiously 
deluded young man who renounced 
American citizenship and became a 
"world citizen," was made an Hon- 
orary Fellow of the Society for his 
action. Davis has since recanted his 
action and has applied for rein- 
statement. 

When the atom bomb first ap- 
peared, Thayer denounced it as a 
hoax — -a deception of the Ameri- 
can government. For months he de- 
nounced also, those silly enough to 
be taken in. He quieted down, final- 
ly, under a deluge of protest, but 
he has never officially retracted the 
absurd view. 

He reacted likewise in the matter 
of the flying saucers. Here, truly, 
was the unkindest cut, as Fort him- 
self wrote of them twenty years be- 
fore Kenneth Arnold told of seeing 
the covey. Thayer claimed the sau- 
cers were another fraud of the gov- 
ernment, this time to stimulate re- 
( Continued on page 151) 



McILVAINE'S 
STAR 



By August Derleth 




138 




Old Thaddeus Mcllvaine dis- 
covered a dark star and took it 
-for his own. Thus he inherited 
a dark destiny — or did he? 



CALL THEM what you like," 
said Tex Harrigan. "Lost 
people or strayed, crackpots or 
warped geniuses — I know enough 
of them to fill an entire department 
of queer people. I've been a re- 
porter long enough to have run into 
quite a few of them." 

"For example?" I said, recogniz- 
ing Harrigan's mellowness. 

"Take Thaddeus Mcllvaine," 
said Harrigan. 

"I never heard of him." 

"I suppose not," said Harrigan. 
"But I knew him. He was an ec- 
centric old fellow who had a modest 
income — enough to keep up his 
hobbies, which' were three: he 
played cards and chess at a tavern 
called Bixby's on North Clark 



j Street; he was an amateur astrono- 
mer; and he had the fixed idea 
that there was life somewhere out- 
side this planet and that it was 
possible to communicate with other 
beings — but unlike most others, he 
tried it constantly with the queer 
machinery he had rigged up. 

"Well, now, this old fellow had 
a trio of cronies with whom he 
played on occasion down at Bixby's. 
He had no one else to confide in. 
He kept them up with his progress 
among the stars and his communi- 
cation with other life in the cosmos 
beyond our own, and they made a 
great joke out of it, from all I 
could gather. I suppose, because he 
had no one else to talk to, Mc- 
llvaine took it without complaint. 



139 



140 



AUGUST DERLETH 



Well, as I said, I never heard of 
him until one morning the city 
editor — it was old Bill Henderson 
then — called me in and said, 'Har- 
rigan, we just got a lead on a fel- 
low named Thaddeus Mcllvaine 
who claims to have discovered a 
new star. Amateur astronomer up 
North Clark. Find him and get a 
story.' So I set out to track him 
down. • ." 

It was a great moment for Thad- 
deus Mcllvaine. He sat down 
among his friends almost porten- 
tously, adjusted his spectacles, and 
peered over them in his usual man- 
ner, half way between a querulous 
oldster and a reproachful school- 
master. 

"I've done it," he said quietly. 

"Aye, and what?" asked Alexan- 
der testily. 

"I discovered a new star." 

"Oh," said Leopold flatly. "A 
cinder in your eye." 

"It lies just off Arcturus," Mc- 
llvaine went on, "and it would 
appear to be coming closer." 

"Give it my love," said Richard- 
son with a wry smile. "Have you 
named it yet? Or don't the discov- 
erers of new stars name them any 
more? Mcllvaine's Star — that's a 
good name for it. Hard a port of 
Arcturus, with special, displays on 
windy nights." 

Mcllvaine only smiled. "It's a 
dark star," he said presently. "It 
doesn't have light." He spoke al- 
most apologetically, as if somehow 
he had disappointed his friends. 
"I'm going to try and communicate 
with it." 



"That's the ticket," said Alex- 
ander. 

"Cut for deal," said Leopold. 

That was how the news about 
Mcllvaine's Star was received by 
his cronies. Afterward, after Mc- 
llvaine had dutifully played several 
games of euchre, Richardson con- 
ceived the idea of telephoning the 
Globe to announce Mcllvaine's dis- 
covery. 



THE OLD FELLOW took him- 
self seriously," Harrigan went 
on. "And yet he was so damned 
mousy about it. I mean, you got the 
impression that he had been trying 
for so long that now he hardly be- 
lieved in his star himself any longer. 
But there it was. He had a long, de- 
tailed story of its discovery, which 
was an accident, as those things 
usually are. They happen all the 
time, and his story sounded con- 
vincing enough. Just the same, you 
didn't feel that he really had any- 
thing. I took down notes, of course; 
that was routine. I got a picture 
of the old man, with never an idea 
we'd be using it. 

"To tell the truth, I carried my 
notes around with me for a day or 
so before it occurred to me that it 
wouldn't do any harm to put a 
call in to Yerkes Observatory up in 
Wisconsin. So I did, and they con- 
firmed Mcllvaine's Star. The Globe 
had the story, did it up in fine 
style. 

"It was two weeks before we 
heard from Mcllvaine again. . ." 

That night Mcllvaine was more 
than usually diffident. He was not 



MclLVAINE'S STAR 



141 



like a man bearing a message of 
considerable importance to himself. 
He slipped into Bixby's, got a glass 
of beer, and approached the table 
where his friends sat, almost with 
trepidation. 

"It's a nice evening for May," he 
said quietly. 

Richardson grunted. 

Leopold said, "By the way, Mac, 
whatever became of that star of 
Hyours? The one the papers wrote 
up." 

"I think," said Mcllvaine cau- 
tiously, "I'm quite sure-^-I have got 
in touch with them. Only," his brow 
wrinkled and furrowed, "I can't 
understand their language." 

"Ah," said Richardson with an 
edge to his voice, "the thing for , 
you to do is to tell them that's your 
star, and they'll have to speak Eng- 
lish from now on, so you can under- 
stand them. Why, next thing we 
know, you'll be getting yourself a 
rocket or a space-ship and going 
over to that star to set yourself up 
as king or something." 

"King Thaddeus the First," said 
Alexander loftily. "All you star- 
dwellers may kiss the royal foot." 

"That would be unsanitary, I 
think," said Mcllvaine, frowning. 

Poor Mcllvaine! They made him 
the butt of their jests for over an 
hour before he took himself off to 
his quarters, where he sat himself 
down before his telescope and 
found his star once more, almost 
huge enough to blot out Arcturus, 
but not quite, since it was moving 
away from that amber star now. 

Mcllvaine's star was certainly 
much closer to the earth than it had 
been. 



He tried once again to contact 
it with his home-made radio, and 
once again he received a succession 
of strange, rhythmic noises which 
he could not doubt were speech of 
some kind or other — a rasping, grat- 
ing speech, to be sure, utterly un- 
like the speech of Mcllvaine's own 
kind. It rose and fell, became im- 
patient, urgent, despairing — Mc- 
llvaine sensed all this and strove 
mightily to understand. 

He sat there for perhaps two 
hours when he received the distant 
impression that someone was talk- 
ing to him in his own language. But 
there was no longer any sound on 
the radio. He could not understand 
what had taken place, but in a few 
moments he received the clear con- 
viction that the inhabitants of his 
star had managed to discover the 
basic elements of his language by 
the simple process- of reading his 
mind, and were now prepared to 
talk with him. 

What manner of creatures in- 
habited Earth? they wished to 
know. 

Mcllvaine told them. He visual- 
ized one of his own kind and tried 
to put him into words. It was diffi- 
cult, since he could not rid himself 
of the conviction that his inter- 
locutors might be utterly alien. 

They had no conception of man 
and doubted man's existence on 
any other star. There were plant- 
people on Venus, ant-people on 
Andromeda, six-legged and four- 
armed beings which were equal 
parts mineral and vegetable on 
Betelguese — -but nothing resembling 
man. "You are evidently alone of 
your kind in the cosmos," said his 



142 



AUGUST DERLETH 



interstellar correspondent. 

"And what about you?" cried 
Mcllvaine with unaccustomed heat. 

Silence was his only answer, but 
presently he conceived a mental 
image which was remarkable for 
its vividness. But the image was of 
nothing he had ever seen before — 
of thousands upon thousands of 
miniature beings, utterly alien td 
man; they resembled amphibious 
insects, with thin, elongated heads, 
large eyes, and antennae set upon a 
scaled, four-legged body, with rudi- 
mentary beetle-like wings. Curious- 
ly, they seemed ageless; he could 
detect no difference among them' — 
all appeared to be the same age. 

"We are not, but we rejuvenate 
regularly," said the creature with 
whom he corresponded in this 
strange manner. 

Did they have names? Mcllvaine 
wondered. 

"I am Guru," said the star's in- 
habitant. "You are Mcllvaine." 

And the civilization of their star? 

Instantly he saw in his mind's 
eye vast cities, which rose from be- 
neath a surface which appeared to 
bear no vegetation recognizable to 
any human eye, in a terrain which 
seemed to be desert, of monolithic 
buildings, which were windowless 
and had openings only of sufficient 
size to permit the free passage of 
its dwarfed dwellers. Within the 
buildings was evidence of a great 
and old civilization. . . 



YOU SEE, Mcllvaine really be- 
lieved all this. What an im- 
agination the man had! Of course, 
the boys at Bixby's gave him a bad 



time ; I don't know how he stood it, 
but he did. And he always came 
back. Richardson called the story 
in; he took a special delight in 
deviling Mcllvaine, and I was sent 
out to see the old fellow again. 

"You couldn't doubt his sincerity. 
And yet he didn't sound touched. 

"But, of course, that part about 
the insect-like dwellers of the star 
comes straight out of Wells, doesn't 
it?" I put in. -n 

"Wells and scores of others," 
agreed Harrigan. "Wells was proba- 
bly the first writer to suggest in- 
sectivorous inhabitants on Mars; 
his were considerably larger, 
though." 

"Goon." 

"Well, I talked with Mcllvaine 
for quite a while. He told me all 
about their civilization and about 
his friend, Guru. You might have 
thought he was talking about a 
neighbor of his I had only to step, 
outside to meet. 

"Later on, I dropped around at 
Bixby's and had a talk with the 
boys there. Richardson let me in on 
a secret. He had decided to rig up 
a connection to Mcllvaine's ma- 
chine and do a little talking to 
the old fellow, making him be- 
lieve Guru was coming through in 
English. He meant to give Mc- 
llvaine a harder time than ever, 
and once he had him believing 
everything he planned to say, they 
would wait for him at Bixby's and 
let him make a fool of himself. 

"It didn't work out quite that 
way, however. . ." 

"Mcllvaine, can you hear me?" 
Mcllvaine started with astonish- 



McILVAINE'S STAR 



143 



merit. His mental impression of 
Guru became confused; the voice 
speaking English came clear as a 
bell, as if from no distance at all. 

"Yes," he said hesitantly. 

"Well, then, listen to me, listen 
to Guru. We have now had enough 
information from' you to suit our 
ends. Within twenty-four hours, we, 
the inhabitants of Ahli, will begin 
a war of ejqtermination against 
Earth. . v . ." 

"But, why?" cried Mcllvaine, 
astounded. 

The image before his mind's eye 
cleared. The cold, precise features 
of Guru betrayed anger. 

"There is interference," the 
thought-image informed him. 
"Leave the machine for a few mo- 
ments, while we use the disintegra- 
tors." 

Before he left the machine, Mc- 
llvaine had the impression of a 
greater machine being attached to 
the means of communication which 
the inhabitants of his star were 
using to communicate with him. 

"Mcllvaine's story was that a few 
moments later there was a blinding 
flash just outside his window," con- 
tinued Harrigan, "There was also 
a run of instantaneous fire from the 
window to his machine. When he 
had collected his wits sufficiently, 
he ran outside to look. There was 
nothing there but a kind of grayish 
dust in a little mound — as if, as 
he put it, 'somebody had cleaned 
out a vacuum bag*. He went back in 
and examined the space from the 
window to the machine ; there were 
two thin lines of dust there, hardly 
perceptible, just as if something had 

9 



been attached to the machine and 
led outside. 

"Now the obvious supposition is 
naturally that it was Richardson 
out there, and that the lines of dust 
from the window to the machine 
represented the wires Jie had at- 
tached to his microphone while 
Mcllvaine was at Bixby's entertain- 
ing his other two cronies, but this is 
fact, not fiction, and the point of 
the episode is that Richardson dis- 
appeared from that night on." 

"You investigated, of course?" I 
asked. 

Harrigan nodded. "Quite a lot of 
us investigated. The police might 
have done better. There was a gang 
war on in Chicago ^just at that 
time, and Richardson was nobody 
with any connections. His nearest 
relatives weren't anxious about any- 
thing but what they might inherit; 
to tell the truth, his cronies at 
Bixby's were the only people who 
worried about him. Mcllvaine as 
much as the rest of them. 

"Oh, they gave the old man a 
hard time, all right. They went 
through his house with a fine- 
toothed comb. They dug up his 
yard, his cellar, and generally put 
him through it, figuring he was a 
natural to hang a murder rap on. 
But there was just nothing to be 
found, and they couldn't manu- 
facture evidence when there was 
nothing to show that Mcllvaine 
ever knew that Richardson planned 
to have a little fun with him. 

"And no one had seen Richard- 
son there. There was nothing but 
Mcllvaine's word that he had 
heard what he said he heard. He 
needn't have volunteered that, but 



144 



AUGUST DERLETH 



he did. After the police had finished 
with him, they wrote him off as a 
harmless nut. But the question of 
what happened to Richardson 
wasn't solved from that day to 
this." 

"People have been known to 
walk out of their lives," I said. 
"And never come back." 

"Oh, sometimes they do. Rich- 
ardson didn't. Besides, if he walked 
out of his life here, he did so with- 
out more than the clothing he had 
on. So much was missing from his 
effects, nothing more." 

"And Mcllvaine?" 

Harrigan smiled thinly. "He car- 
ried on. You couldn't expect him to 
do anything less. After all, he had 
worked most of his life trying to 
communicate with the worlds out- 
side, and he had no intention of re- 
signing his contact, no matter how 
much Richardson's disappearance 
upset him. For a while he believed 
that puru had actually disinte- 
grated Richardson; he offered that 
explanation, but by that time the 
dust had vanished, and he was 
laughed out of face. So he went 
back to the machine and Guru and 
the little excursions to Bixby's . . .." 



WHAT'S THE latest word 
from that star of yours?" 
asked Leopold, when. Mcllvaine 
came in. 

"They want to rejuvenate me," 
said Mcllvaine, with a certain shy 
pleasure. 

"What's that?" asked Alexander 
sourly. 

"They say they can make me 
young again. Like them up there. 



They never die. They just live so 
long, and then they rejuvenate, 
they begin all over. It's some kind of 
a process they have." 

"And I suppose they're planning 
to come down and fetch you up 
there and give you the works, is that 
it?" asked Alexander. 

"Well, no," answered Mcllvaine. 
"Guru says there's no need for that 
— it can be done through the ma- 
chine; they can work it like the 
disintegrators; it puts you back to 
thirty or twenty or wherever you 
like." 

"Well, I'd like to be twenty-five 
myself again," admitted Leopold. 

"I'll tell you what, Mac," said 
Alexander. "You go ahead and try 
it; then come back and let us know 
how it works. If it does, we'll all 
sit in." 

"Better make your will first, 
though, just in case." 

"Oh, I did. This afternoon." 

Leopold choked back a snicker. 
"Don't take this thing too seriously, 
Mac. After all, we're short one of 
us now. We'd hate to lose you, too." 

Mcllvaine was touched. "Oh, I 
wouldn't change," he hastened to 
assure his friends. "I'd just be 
younger, that's all. They'll just work 
on me through the machine, and 
over-night I'll be rejuvenated." 

"That's certainly a little trick 
that's got it all over monkey 
glands," conceded Alexander, grin- 
ning. 

"Those little bugs on that star of 
yours have made scientific, progress, 
I'd say," said Leopold. 

"They're not bugs," said Mc- 
llvaine with faint indignation. 
"They're people, maybe not just 



MclLVAINE'S STAR 



145 



like you and me, but they're people 
just the same." 

He went home that night filled 
with anticipation. He had done just 
what he had promised himself he 
would do, arranging everything for 
his rejuvenation. Guru had been as- 
tonished to learn that people on 
Earth simply died when there was 
no necessity of doing so; he had 
made the offer to rejuvenate Mc- 
Ilvaine himself. 

Mcllvaine sat down to his ma- 
chine and turned the complex 
knobs until he was en rapport with 
his dark star. He waited for a long 
time, it seemed, before he knew his 
contact had been closed. Guru 
came through. 

"Are you ready, Mcllvaine?' he 
asked soundlessly. 

"Yes. All ready," said Mcllvaine, 
trembling with eagerness. 

"Don't be alarmed now. It will 
take several hours," said Guru. 

"I'm not alarmed," answered 
Mcllvaine. 

And indeed he was not; he was 
filled with an exhilaration akin to 
mysticism, and he sat waiting for 
what he was certain must be the 
experience above all others in his 
prosaic existence. 

"Mcllvaine's disappearance com- 
ing so close on Richardson's gave 
us a beautiful story," said Harri- 
gan. "The only trouble was, it 
wasn't new when the Globe got 
around to it. We had lost our in- 
formant in Richardson; it never oc- 
curred to Alexander or Leopold to 
telephone us or anyone about Mc- 
llvaine's unaccountable absence 
from Bixby's. Finally, Leopold went 



over to Mcllvaine's house to find 
out whether the old fellow was sick. 

"A young fellow opened up. 

" 'Where's Mcllvaine?' Leopold 
asked. 

" 'I'm Mcllvaine,' the young fel- 
low answered. 

" 'Thaddeus Mcllvaine,' Leopold 
explained. 

" 'That's my name,' was the only 
answer he got. 

" T mean the Thaddeus Mcll- 
vaine who used to play cards with 
us over at Bixby's,' said Leopold. 

"He shook his head. 'Sorry, you 
must be looking for someone else.' 

" 'What're you doing here?' Leo- 
pold asked then. 

" 'Why, I inherited what my 
uncle left,' said the young fellow. 

"And, sure enough, when Leo- 
pold talked to me and persuaded 
me to go around with him to Mc- 
llvaine's lawyer, wc found that the 
old fellow had made a will and left 
everything to his nephew, a name- 
sake. The stipulations were clear 
clear enough; among them was the 
express wish that if anything hap- 
pened to him, the elder Thaddeus 
Mcllvaine, of no matter what na- 
ture, but particularly something al- 
lowing a reasonable doubt of his 
death, the nephew was still to be 
permitted to take immediate posses- 
sion of the property and effects." 

"Of course, you called on the 
nephew," I said. 

Harrigan nodded. "Sure. That 
was the indicated course, in any 
event. It was routine for both the 
press and the police. There was 
nothing suspicious about his story; 
it was straightforward enough, ex- 
cept for one or two little details. 



146 



AUGUST DERLETH 



He never did give us any precise 
address - f he just mentioned Detroit 
once. I called up a friend on one of 
the papers there and put him up to 
looking up Thaddeus Mcllvaine; 
the only young man of that name 
he could find appeared to be the 
same man as the present inhabit- 
ant's uncle, though the description 
fit pretty well." 

"There was a resemblance, 
then?" 

"Oh, sure. One could have imag- 
ined that old Thaddeus Mcllvaine 
had looked somewhat like his neph- 
ew when he himself was a young 
man. But don't let the old man's 
rigmarole about rejuvenation make 
too deep an impression on you. The 
first thing the young fellow did was 
to get rid of that machine of his 
uncle's. Can you imagine his uncle 
having done something like that?" 



I SHOOK my head, but I could 
not help thinking what an ironic 
thing it would have been if there 
had been something to* Mcllvaine's 
story, and in the process to which 
he had been subjected from out of 
space he had not been rejuvenated 
so much as just sent back in time, 
in which case he would have no 
memory of the machine nor of the 
use to which it had been put. It 
would have been as ironic for the 
inhabitants of Mcllvaine's star, too; 
they would doubtless have looked 
forward to keeping this contact 
with Earth open and failed to re- 
alize that Mcllvaine's construction 
differed appreciably from theirs. 
"He virtually junked it. Said he 



had no idea what it could be used 
for, and didn't know how to oper- 
ate it." 

"And the telescope?" 

"Oh, he kept that. He said he 
, had some interest in astronomy and 
meant to develop that if time per- 
mitted." 

"So much ran in the family, 
then." 

"Yes. More than that. Old Mc- 
llvaine had a trick of seeming shy 
and self-conscious. So did this neph- 
ew of his. Wherever he came from, 
his origins must have been back- 
ward. I suspect that he was 
ashamed of them, and if I had to 
guess, I'd put him in the Kentucky 
hill-country or the Ozarks. Modern 
concepts seemed to be pretty well 
too much for him, and his thinking 
would have been considerably more 
natural at the turn of the century. 

"I had to see him several times. 
The police chivvied him a little, 
but not much; he was so obviously 
innocent of everything that there 
was nothing for them in him. And 
the search for the old man didn't 
last long; no one had seen him after 
that last night at Bixby's, and, since 
everyone had already long since 
concluded that he was mentally a 
little off center, it was easy to con- 
clude that he had wandered away 
somewhere, probably an amnesiac. 
That he might have anticipated 
that is indicated in the hasty pre- 
paration of his will, which came out 
of the blue, said Barnevall, who 
drew it up for him. 

"I felt sorry for him." 

"For whom?" 

"The nephew. He seemed so lost, 
you know- — like a man who wanted 



MelLVAINE'S STAR 



147 



to remember something, but 
couldn't. I noticed that several 
times when I tried to talk to him; 
I had the feeling each time that 
there was something he wanted des- 
perately to say, it hovered always 
on the rim of his awareness, but 
somehow there was no bridge to it, 
no clue to put it into words. He 
tried so hard for something he 
couldn't put his finger on." 
"What became of him?" 
"Oh, he's still around. I think he 
found a job somewhere. As a mat- 
f er of fact, I saw him just the other 
evening. He had apparently just 
come from work and he was stand- 
ing in front of Bixby's with his face 
pressed to the window looking in. I 
came up nearby and watched him. 
Leopold and Alexander were sitting 
inside — a couple of lonely old men 
looking out. And a lonely young 
man looking in. There was some- 
thing in Mcllvaine's face — that 
same thing I had noticed so often 
before, a kind of expression that 
seemed to say there was something 
he ought to know, something he 



ought to remember, to do, to say, 
but there was no way in which he 
could reach back to it. 

"Or forward," I said with a wry 
smile. 

"As you like," said Harrigan. 
"Pour me another, will you?" 

I did and he took it. 

"That poor devil!" he muttered. 
"He'd be happier if he could only 
go back where he came from." 

"Wouldn't we all?" I asked. "But 
nobody ever goes home again. Per- 
haps Mcllvaine never had a home 
like that." 

"You'd have thought so if you 
could have seen his face looking in 
at Leopold and Alexander, ©h, it 
may have been a trick of the street- 
light there, it may have been my 
imagination. But it sticks to my 
memory, and I keep thinking how 
alike the two were — old Mcllvaine 
trying so desperately to find some- 
one who could believe him, and his 
nephew now trying just as hard to 
find someone to accept him or a 
place he could accept on the only 
terms he knows." 



THE END 



SCIENCE BRIEFS 



By Ezra Shaw 



The Mastery of Fire 

THREE hundred and fifty thou- 
sand years ago, prehistoric man 
already had the ability to make fire 
and fashion rude stones to help him 
in his fight for survival. His control 
of fire was probably the first great 
step in his freedom from his en- 
vironment. Now, man was no long- 
er restricted to a limited range of 
climates; his activities no longer de- 
pended only on the sun's light. 

At the beginning, man's effort 
was only to control and keep alive 
the fires that resulted from nature's 
forces — as from lightning. But in 
tending and preserving the flames, 
he kept adding to his store of 
knowledge. The sacred fires that 
even today must never be allowed 
to die out — as the fire of Vesta at 
Rome — - were also undoubtedly 
tended to by many of the ancient 
tribes. They are survivals of a time 
before man had learned to produce 
fire as he desired it. 

Together with the fossils of Pekin 
man and other extinct animals, very 
crude flakes of quartzite and other 
stones have also been found. These 
tools show that a man- like type of 
animal was adapting stones to assist 
in gaining his rudimentary needs. 
What the tools were made for, can 
only be guessed at. Most probably 
they served a multitude of purposes. 
Early man had to learn by dint of 

, • 1 



hard experience what stones were 
suitable for the making of tools, and 
how to chip them correctly. In the 
course of making tools, the earliest 
communities had to build up a 
scientific tradition, noting what the 
best stones were, where they could 
be expected to be found, how they 
should be handled. Man could not 
successfully start making special 
tools for each individual operation 
until he had mastered the technique 
of manufacture. 



Symbol of Progress 

THROUGH the years, mankind 
has reached developments 
which have both helped and hin- 
dered him — as science and supersti- 
tion, materialism and asceticism, 
romanticism and classicism. But al- 
ways there has been progress and 
this progress of man as a social hu- 
man being has always been symbol- 
ized by his participation in the arts. 
The story of the discovery of the 
first prehistoric painting is one of 
the strangest incidents in the entire 
history of the arts. In 1879, the 
Marquis de Sautuola was exploring 
the cave of Altamire in the Canta- 
brian Mountains in the northern 
part of Spain. His little four-year- 
old daughter accompanied him on 
the outing. Not interested in her 
48 



SCIENCE BRIEFS 



149 



father's search for fossils, tKe little 
girl went on an exploring trip of 
her own. Crawling into a part of 
the cave that was so low that an 
adult would have normally passed 
it by, the child played for a while 
among the rocks by the light of her 
candle. Suddenly, she screamed. 
She had found a painting of a bull 
on the cave wall— so realistically 
done that it frightened the child. 

When the Marquis announced 
his discovery to the scientific world, 
he was immediately denounced as a 
faker and an imposter. The art 
experts who examined the pictures 
insisted that it was impossible that 
such magnificent work could have 
been done by prehistoric savages. 
The Marquis was accused of hav- 
ing the painting done by a modern, 
talented artist. 

Fortunately, similar pictures were 
eventually discovered in the valley 
of the Dordogne in southwestern 
France, and the reputation of the 
Marquis' artistic honesty remains 
unblemished. Since then, pictures 
belonging to this same school have 
been found in caves all over south- 
ern France and northern Spain, 
and southern Italy. 

THE question arises as to why 
prehistoric men painted their 
pictures in these dark and for the 
most part inaccessible caverns. Why 
did they invariably paint animals? 
There are several reasons for this. 
If you feared an enemy, you made 
for yourself an image of your enemy, 
stuck it full of pins to cause pain 
and death. Before going out on a 
hunt, the hunter invariably indulged 



in this practice to insure a success- 
ful chase. Primitive man's whole 
philosophy of life revolved around 
these animals. They were food — 
life itself; Small wonder, then, that 
he resorted to all sorts of magic 
tricks to help him gain the upper 
hand. This type of superstition is 
still practiced today among many of 
our uncivilized tribes. 

Since primitive man's entire re- 
ligion was shaped around animals, 
perhaps these dark caverns where 
the walls were covered with repro- 
ductions of bison and wolves were 
places of worship — ancient temples 
where the elders of the tribe came 
together to bewitch the images so 
that food would be plentiful. No 
daylight ever penetrated the deep 
recesses of the limestone caves. No 
families ever lived there. Most of 
the caves were difficult of access, 
and the artist had to adopt the most 
uncomfortable positions to execute 
his art, sometimes lying flat on his 
back, sometimes standing on an- 
other's shoulders. The light was al- 
ways artificial. Stone lamps, prob- 
ably using fat for fuel and moss 
for wicks, have been found. All this 
pretty much points to the fact that 
there was a magic purpose to the 
art. Each creature so faithfully re- 
produced must have had a counter- 
part in the outside world that could 
be tasted as well as seen. As surely 
as the artist drew a bison in the 
dark cavern, so surely would there 
be a living bison in the steppes out- 
side to be killed and eaten. To 
make sure of success, the artist oc- 
casionally drew his bison transfixed 
by a dart. 

At any rate, out of this strange 



150 



SCIENCE BRIEFS 



wizardy came the first school of 
painting from men who were artists 
of the first order. 

The statuary which is today pro- 
duced by the witch doctors of many 
of the African and Pacific island 
tribes, is very similar to that which 
has been handed down to us from 
prehistoric times. Invariably ob- 
scene and repulsive, the images de- 
picted have unusually fat bodies, 
with the sexual features exagger- 
ated, and faces blank. Probably they 
indicate the fertility of the females 
— the sexual charms of the men. 
According to authorities these fig- 
urines are completely lacking in the 
qualities which make us rate the 
work of the caveman painters and 
draftsmen with the best that has 
ever been done. 



The Eorly Sculptors 

AFTER the Ice Age, the style of 
. painting changed. The artist 
no longer tried to portray — for in- 
stance — an individual living stag. 
He was content now to use the 
fewest possible strokes in indicating 
the essential attributes by which a 
stag may be recognized. He seemed 
to have found that a shorthand 
sketch was just as effective as a life 
portrait in multiplying edible stags 
in the real world. And he seemed to 
suddenly have absorbed — even if 
unconsciously — the idea of abstract 
thinking. 

But this school of painting com- 
pletely disappeared. Thousands of 
years passed before the world would 
again see art showing such an un- 



canny gift for observation. And it 
was during the ensuing thousand 
years that the human race learned 
the use of metals and fire for the 
purpose of changing lumps of clay 
into lasting pieces of pottery. 

The earliest pieces of bronze that 
have been so far discovered were in 
the central court of the ancient pal- 
ace of Cnossus in Crete. They were 
done about fifteen centuries before 
the birth of Christ. Bronze had al- 
ready been brought to Crete by the 
Phoenicians. It had already found 
its way to Egypt. 

But hardly had bronze appeared, 
when iron came into the picture. 
For all practical purposes, it soon 
became the leading metal, since it 
was much harder, and much easier 
to convert into steel. Yet, surpris- 
ingly enough, the ornaments of the 
Iron Age were inferior artistically 
to those of the Stone Age. 

The anthropologists have stated 
that the skulls found in the earlier 
graves seem to have belonged to a 
much more intelligent race of peo- 
ple than those who date back to a 
more recent age. This is borne out 
by the fact that the artists of the 
Stone Age showed a much greater 
deftness and much more imagina- 
tion in the way they solved their 
problems than the men of the Iron 
Age who lived thousands of years 
later. Evolution does* not necessari- 
ly mean that the superior types will 
always survive. From the point of 
view of civilization, the superior 
types are quite often completely 
exterminated by their inferior 
neighbors who happen to be less 
civilized but are much better at the 
art of war. In this case, the facts 



SCIENCE BRIEFS 



151 



seem to hint at some such develop- 
ment. After the late Stone Age 
there was a very definite and very 
sudden slump in the artistic output 
of the human race. 



ALL art reflects not merely the 
. economic surroundings of the 
artist but also his geographical 
background. An Eskimo may have a 
profound natural gift for sculpture, 
but during the greater part of each 
year he will have to content himself 
with cutting his monuments out of 



ice. An Egyptian, on the other 
hand, was not so restricted. 

Prehistoric man must have been 
a most unappetizing looking indi- 
vidual judging by the standards we 
have today. Yet, in the field of art, 
he achieved results which show him 
to be not only a superior craftsman, 
but to be endowed also with a tre- 
mendous amount of imagination. 

Art is as old as the human race. 
It*belongs to no particular period 
or group. There has never been a 
race that was completely without 
artistic expression. 



Personalities in Science Fiction 

(Continued from page 137) 



cruiting of air raid wardens of 
which Thayer does not approve. 
Thayer's fight with the air raid 
wardens seems almost a fixation. 
He calls them "pismires in 
white helmets" ; advocates rebellion 
against civil defense by urging the 
membership to turn on lights dur- 
ing blackouts and to refuse to co- 
operate generally. 

The whole thing would be amus- 
ing, were it not so serious. Surely, 
the memory of Charles Fort de- 
serves better. His was one of the 
most original minds of this era; one 



which evolved some fascinating 
concepts. Evidence of the things of 
which he wrote continues to pile 
up. It all goes on as before, but 
now, no one is looking. The society 
which was founded to* carry on 
after Fort is snarling at air raid 
wardens and pursuing cheap po- 
litical ends. 

So the prophet is without honor 
in his own society. The "gargantuan 
laughter" is stilled, and Fort's name 
declines in the West. 

— Robert Barbour Johnson 



Have you ever written science fiction: 
Have your stories been rejected? Hereir 
may lie the reason. 



The Smiler 



By Albert Hemhunter 



YOUR NAME?* 
"Cole. Martin Cole." 

"Your profession?" 

"A very important one. I am a 
literary agent specializing in 
science-fiction. I sell the work of 
various authors to magazine and 
book pubishers." 

The Coroner paused to study 
Cole; to ponder the thin, mirthless 
smile. The Coroner said, "Mr. Cole, 
this inquest has been called to look 
into the death of one Sanford 
Smith, who was found near your 
home with a gun in his hand and 
a bullet in his brain. The theory of 
suicide has been — " 

" — rather hard to rationalize?" 

The Coroner blinked. "You 
could put it that way." 

"I would put it even stronger. 
The theory is obviously ridiculous. 
It was a weak cover-up. The best I 

1 



could do under the circumstances." 
"You are saying that you killed 
Sanford Smith?" 
"Of course." 

The Coroner glanced at his six- 
man jury, at the two police officers, 
at the scattering of spectators. They 
all seemed stunned. Even the re- 
porter sent to cover the hearing 
made no move toward the tele- 
phone. The Coroner could think of 
only the obvious question: "Why 
did you kill him?" 

"He was dangerous to us." 
"Whom do you mean by us?" 
"We Martians, who plan to take 
over your world." 

The Coroner was disappointed. A 
lunatic. But a lunatic can murder. 
Best to proceed, the coroner 
thought. "I was not aware that we 
have Martians to contend with." 
"If I'd had the right weapon to 
52 



THE SMILER 



153 



use on Cole, you wouldn't be aware 
of it now. We still exercise caution." 

The Coroner felt a certain pity. 
"Why did you kill Smith?" 

"We Martians have found 
science-fiction writers to be our 
greatest danger. Through the me- 
dium of imaginative fiction, such 
writers have more than once re- 
vealed our plans. If the public sud- 
denly realized that — " 



THE CORONER broke in. "You 
killed Smith because he re- 
vealed something in his writings?" 

"Yes. He refused to take "my word 
that it was unsalable. He threat- 
ened to submit it direct. It was vital 
material." 

"But there are many other such 
writers. You can't control- — " 

"We control ninety percent of 
the output. We have concentrated 
on the field and all of the science 
fiction agencies are in our hands. 
This control was imperative." 

"I see." The Coroner spoke in 
the gentle tones one uses with the 
insane. "Any writing dangerous to 
your cause is deleted or changed by 
the agents." 

"Not exactly. The agent usually 
persuades the writer to make any 
such changes, as the agent is con- 
sidered an authority on what will 
or will not sell." 

"The writers always agree?" 

"Not > always. If stubbornness is 
encountered, the agent merely 
shelves the manuscript and tells the 
writer it has been repeatedly re- 
jected." 

The Coroner glanced at the two 
policemen. Both were obviously 



puzzled. They returned the Cor- 
oner's look, apparently ready to 
move on his order. 

The thin, mirthless smile was still 
on Cole's lips. Maniacal violence 
could lie just behind it. Possibly 
Cole was armed. Better to play for 
time-i-try to quiet the madness 
within. The Coroner continued 
speaking. "You Martians have in- 
filtrated other fields also?" 

"Oh yes. We are in government, 
industry, education. We are every- 
where. We have, of course, concen- 
trated mainly upon the ranks of 
labor and in the masses of ordinary, 
everyday people. It is from these 
sources that we will draw our 
shock troops when the time comes." 

"That time will be—?" 

"Soon, very soon." 

The Coroner could not forebear 
a smile. "You find the science fic- 
tion writers more dangerous than 
the true scientists?" 

"Oh yes. The scientific mind 
tends to reject anything science dis- 
proves." There was now a mocking 
edge to Cole's voice. "Science can 
easily prove we do not exist." 

"But the science fiction writer?" 
■ "The danger from the imagina- 
tive mind cannot be overestimat- 
ed." 

The Coroner knew he must soon 
order the officers to lay hands upon 
this madman. He regretted his own 
lack of experience with such situa- 
tions. He tried to put a soothing, 
confidential note into his voice. 
"You said a moment ago that if 
you'd had the right kind of weapon 
to use on Smith — •" 

Cole reached into his pocket and 
brought out what appeared to be a 



154 ALBERT HERNHUNTER 

fountain pen. "This. It kills in- the spectators. They were all smil- 

stantly and leaves no mark what- ing cold, thin, terrible smiles . . . 
ever. Heart failure is invariably 

stated as the cause of death." A short time later, the newspa- 

The Coroner felt better. Ob- perman phoned in his story. The 

viously, Cole was not armed. As the afternoon editions carried it : 
Coroner raised a hand to signal the 

officers, Cole said, "You under- CORONER BELL DIES 

stand, of course, that I can't let you OF HEART ATTACK 

live." Shortly after this morning's 

"Take this man into custody." inquest, which resulted in a 

The police officers did not move. jury verdict of suicide in the 

The Coroner turned on them sharp- case of Sanford Smith, Cor- 

ly. They were smiling. Cole pointed oner James Bell dropped dead 

the fountain pen. The Coroner felt of heart -failure in the hearing 

a sharp chill on his flesh. He looked room of the County building. 

at the jury, at the newspaperman, Mr. Bell leaves a wife and — 

THE END — 



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1 THE 1 

| 'Po4twa*t 1 

| COMETH ... I 

iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiijiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiijj 

OF LOVE, APPLE PIE, AND 
NO SERIALS 

Dear Paul: 

Though we have only just met, 
I feel as if I'd known you all my 
life, etc. 

If that salutation and first sen- 
tence sounds like the beginning of 
a love letter, well, why not? It is. 
To quote a famous love song: "II" 
I Loved You. 

Of course you couldn't have 
missed, for the great god, Big 
Name, was on your side, and the 
biggest names I've seen in stf were 
all there together. However, in all 
fairness, let me say that these au- 
thors have given you the cream of 
the stuff that made them worthy 
of their big names. 

I trembled in the aspect of I Iow- 
"ard Browne's story. I kept waiting 
for Kirk to come crashing back 
through space in time to arrest the 
hand of the man at the switch, and 
when he didn't I felt as though I'd 
been punched in the belly . . . 

The Stowaway struck a respon- 
sive chord in me. I'm always hop- 
ing a flying saucer will land plop 
in front of me some day and take 
me off into space and I will be the 
very first to see what's up there. I'd 
even like to go with the big brass, 



155 



but I'd only be in the way, for I 
have no special skills or knowledge 
that would help except I bake a 
mean apple pie. Would that help? 

Bitter Victory was interesting 
since I too am a telepath. I say to 
my husband on Wednesday night, 
"Dear — — " and he says, "Okay." 
Then he takes down the garbage. I 
must develop it for distance. 

Never Underestimate. What hap- 
pened to Jenny should happen to 
me! 

Black Eyes and the Daily Grind 
was highly improbable and I didn't 
believe a word of it but I thought 
it was cute. 

Of Stegner's Folly was okay. If 
my seven-month-old daughter starts 
pushing around pianos, I might go 
back and read it again. 

The Hell Ship. Orchids to this. 
I'm always happy to see the ma- 
ligned and oppressed get the upper 
hand, foil the villians, and get their 
just rewards. 

The Old Martians presented no 
triple problem to me. The ending 
was definite enough. However, if 
Herb had escaped, then I would 
have had my choice. I really felt all 
along that Joe believed Herb was 
not insane. Am I supposed to won- 
der if Herb was an old Martian. 
Well, maybe. 

On to the departments! Here is 
where you really shine, and your 
magnitude will, nay must, increase 
with every issue. Do you know that 
I read everything else in a maga- 
zine first, before I read the stories? 
This is so those little notes about 
any certain story will increase my 
enjoyment of same. 

1 start off by seeing what the 
editor has to say and, Paul, you 
said it and I'm. glad, I'm happy 



156 



THE POSTMAN COMETH 



that you don't intend to bow to the 
great god Plot. Tragedies, Gome- 
dies, bring 'em on. My jaws are 
slavering to devour them. But no 
serials, please. 

The Guest Editorial was interest- 
ing and the Citation timely, for just 
as I put down the book, Tales of 
Tomorrow came on and I did what 
you said and didn't miss it. It was 
Dune Roller and I'd read it in 
ASTOUNDING. (What have I 
said!) 

The science briefs were of inter- 
est to my husband who doesn't like 
stf, but who does like the gurruls 
on the covers of stf mags. 

This brings us to The Postman 
Cometh and the very thought of 
winning an original MS makes lit- 
tle shivers go up and down my 
back. ... 

Besides the fact that yours is a 
fine magazine there is the thrill for 
me of being in on the ground floor 
of something big. When a convert 
to stf tries to catch up on the 
classics and back issues of various stf 
mags, he usually finds it a hopeless 
and expensive job. For instance, it 
would be quite a feat to acquire 
every issue of Amazing from Vol. 1, 
No. 1 on up to today. But readers 
of IF will find no such strain on 
their budget and resourcefulness. 
They can start this very minute. I 
for one am going to_ serve noodles 
instead of meat to my family until 
I've salvaged the subscription price 
to your mag. Then, twenty-five 
years from now, I'll be 50, but my 
library of IF will be priceless and 
this March 1952 issue will be a 
golden possession among my sou- 
venirs. And if I'm lucky enough to 



win an original MS ! ! ! ! 

I'll close now, although I hate to 
go. I can't promise to wait on the 
sidewalk wrapped in a blanket for 
your next issue, but I'll get it, never 
fear. Anyway, I'll probably have 
subscribed by then. Well, darn it, 
I can't wait! Here's the egg money, 
boys, that old hen must still be 
around someplace. 

Did I keep you in suspense? I 
was gonna send it all the time. , 
— Mrs. Francis Huber 

Irvington, N. J. 



* 



FAIR ENOUGH 

Dear Sir: 

I will most certainly try two or 
three (of your issues) on for size; 
and if they prove to be comparable 
in quality to Galaxy and Astound' 
ing, I'll subscribe. 

— W. Boyd 
Wichita, Kansas 



RASH STATEMENT 

Dear Ed: 

I have just finished reading your 
first issue and am very satisfied with 
it. The small size, the cut edges, 
along with the fine stories, make it 
unusual in its field. 

Howard Browne's Twelve Times 
Zero was excellently done, although 
the use of outside watchers as a 
main theme is becoming too com- 
mon. The front cover which illus- 
trates a scene from this lead novel 
is well done, the only fault being 



THE POSTMAN COMETH 



157 



the shape of the ship which should 
have been round. 
' The other stories were all good, 
especially The Stowaway and Black 
Eyes and the Daily Grind. The 
plot of Never Underestimate was 
very good, but the story seemed to 
fall short of Sturgeon's standard. 

I like your feature, Personalities 
in Science Fiction, and hope it will 
continue. Your mag is the only one 
with this topic among the prozines 
and it fills a particular need, as 
does the review of fanzines in other 
publications. 

In discussing Howard Browne, 
you state that Amazing Stories was 
the best science fiction magazine 
that money could buy. This is cer- 
tainly a rash statement. I, and I'm 
sure many other fen, consider Gal' 
axy and Astounding superior to it 
in content and format. It is a well 
known fact that circulation is a 
good standard of popularity only, 
not of intrinsic value. 

—Richard C. Sprhnan 
Cambridge 'J>U, Mass. 

* * * 

FROM A SHAVER FAN " 

Dear Mr. Fairman: 

Congratulations on a really wel- 
come new addition to the growing 
ranks of stf mags! .... One look 
at the contents page of IF and I 
knew that here was no fluke. Yours 
is the only first issue I have ever 
seen. Was that line up — Phillips, 
Shaver, Sturgeon, Palmer, Lesser, 
and Browne, merely the result of a 
polite send-off by those illustra- 
irious figures of the stf world, or 



will each issue be as good as the 
first. Half as good would be terrific! 

Somehow, when I looked at your 
cover, it seemed like a pocket novel 
instead of a periodical mag. I would 
suggest an opaque band across the 
top, with your words, "Worlds of 
Science Fiction," so it would be 
more noticeable. 

Of Stegner's Folly, I think, was 
the best in the book. Browne's de- 
tective was excellent. ... 

I hope this reaches print even 
though it's hand written, and in 
case you only get two other letters, 
besides mine (not very likely I'd 
say) you can send me Shaver's 
manuscript. 

—Marc Caplan 
Lebanon, Penn. 



PROUD EDITOR 

Dear Ed : 

Your magazine, IF, could be one' 
of the best in the field with the 
array of writing talent displayed in 
your first issue, however it is not. 

The lead novel by Howard 
Browne, Twelve Times Zero, of 
which you are so proud, seemed to 
be cut short at the end and suffered 
because of it. With a little more 
length, it would have been an ex- 
cellent story, despite the fact that 
it had for a plot, the well-worn 
watchers over earth theme ... 

The Hell Ship, your novelette, 
was a wonderful story and partially 
made up for the lead novel, al- 
though the illustration was horri- 
ble . . . 

The rest of the stories were bet- 



158 



THE POSTMAN COMETH 



ter than average but still not of the 
quality one would expect of Phil- 
lips, Sturgeon, or Shaver. The only 
completely good parts of your mag- 
azine are the features. They are 
wonderful. 

— Martin Lewkowicz 

Fair Lawn, N. J. 



A WELL-WISHER 

Dear Sir: 

Thought I'd drop you a line and 
tell you how your mag stacks up 
with the rest . . . With stories by 
BroWne, Palmer, Shaver, Phillips, 
and Sturgeon, how could it miss? 
Most magazines have one or two 
good names in them, but your first 
issue had five . . . 

You were smart to leave out the 
books and the reviews, as you say, 
they are well covered. Personalities 
in Science Fiction is a honey of an 
idea . . '. The title, IF, is better 
than BEYOND TOMORROW . . . 
Your art work could be improved. 

I hope to say I am the first to 
congratulate you on a very fine 
magazine. If I am not the first I 
certainly won't be the lasti 

—Basil Guiley 
Warren, Penn. 



not familiar wfth this type of stuff, 
but I read it through and found it 
held my attention with no effort on ** 
my part. No need to comment on 
each story because I'm no judge. 
Would have enjoyed Never Under- 
estimate immensely, if properly 
done. (Ed. note: You listening, 
Ted?) The idea had such possibili- 
ties — too good to be written down. 

Your editorial was okay and fol- 
lows the pattern of editors in the 
pulp, Ellery Queen's mag. (Ed. 
note: ?????) which we get through 
the generosity of some guests we 
had last summer. 

Am interested in learning how 
many of your readers will write to 
remind you that Romeo really did 
get there in time. If enough of 
them catch you on that one, you 
might try "writing up" a little. 
Also, the word "gotten", is obsolete 
in any form. 

The cover. The picture contains 
four focal points of interest — too 
many for its purpose. Two at the 
most, because you must realize the 
necessity of centering the interest 
of a prospective reader. This is the 
purpose of the picture on the cover 
. . . (Ed. note: Yes sir — sarry sir; 
we'll do better next time, sir.) 

All in all, though, a very good 
book. 

—Joseph E. F airman 
Benedict, Nebraska 



OUTSIDE THE FOLD 

Dear Paul: 

Your letter and IF received . . . 
The magazine is pretty good. I'm 



The above came from the edi- 
tor's younger brother — the only 
real "brain" in the family. 



THE POSTMAN COMETH 



159 



FROM A DISAPPOINTED 
- READER 

Dear Mr. Fairman: 

My first impression of IF as I 
leafed through it . . . was an ex- 
cellent one ... I thought your edi- 
torial policy was wonderfully well 
put and your Personality, Guest 
editorial, and Citation were inter- 
esting. I settled down to read How- 
ard Browne's Twelve Times Zero 
with pleasant anticipation. Then it 
happened. 

I hadn't previously noted the 
boxed-off comment on the second 
page of his story, so before pro- 
ceding further, I read it. And the 
excellent first impression you cre- 
ated, went right out the window. 
I just can't believe that the same 
person who wrote the excellently 
thought out editorial, penned the 
— I almost said, asinine— statement 
that Amazing Stories is the best Stf 
mag your money can buy ... 

All I can say is that if your plug 
of Amazing was part payment for 
Twelve Times Zero, you got the 
zero . . . 

— Richard H. Jamison 

St. Louis 23, Mo. 



(We hasten to reassure Mr. 
Jamison on two points: Howard 
Browne was paid in cash for his 
lead novel— not partially in plugs. 
Also, the same person who wrote 
the editorial for the first issue of 
IF, did write the boxed-in com- 
ment on page two of the story.) 



MYSTIFYING 

Sirs: 

I wish you luck in the field of 
stf. (It) can stand new publica- 
tions. Your stories are good, they 
hold my interest. However, I'm 
betting you don't enjoy wide popu- 
larity. Why? it's hard to say. Only 
that your mag leaves a feeling of 
having read a collection of good 
stories, but not a collection of good 
stories published by IF. I might 
say you don't impress me as having 
a personality. Perhaps you will de- 
velop one. ... 

Charles Recour, in Science 
Briefs, quotes the hydrogen atom 
as reversing its spin and thus emit- 
ting a radio impulse. Why? Where 
can I find out about this? 

Guess that's about all. .Again 
wishing you luck. 

— Harold V. Anderson 
Philadelphia 41, Pa. 



THE LINE-UP 

Dear Ed: 

Congratulations- on a fine first 
issue. I enjoyed all your stories. I 
ask no more than that you keep up 
to the standard you set in this issue. 
Here are my ratings: * 

1. The Stowaway by Heiner. 
More . . . 

2. Never Underestimate by Stur- 
geon. Nice twist. 

3. B.E. and the D.G. by Lesser. 
Funny. 

4. Twelve Times Zero by 
Browne. Good, but not his best. 

5. Of Stegner's Folly by Shaver. 



160 



THE POSTMAN COMETH 



This is the man to round out a 
mag. 

6. The Hell Ship by Rap. 
'Nough said. 

7. The Old Martians by Phillips. 
Could have been further devel- 
oped-. 

8. Bitter Victory by Miller. Last 
but not least. 



Truthfully, it's hard to decide 
which story I liked best. They were 
all good ... So I'll end with con- 
gratulations onthe birth of IF, and 
may it enjoy a long and fruitful 
life. 

• — Lucretia Laflin 
Somerville, Mass. 



Suggestions : 

Inside covers are nice for some 
sort of picture article on the au- 
thors and some sort of technical 
article. 

Get a cover by Carrier, Bok, Or- 
ban, or Bonestell. 

Get a story by Bradbury, Hein- 
len, de Camp, Brown. 

Don't have your magazine mixed 
up with the sexy cover arguments. 
They have special magazines for 
people who go for that stuff. Nuff 
said. 

With great expectations for the 
future, 

— William J. Doherty 
Cambridge 39, Mass. 



FROM AN OLD FRIEND 

Dear Paul: 

This is my first letter to any mag- 
azine. Feel flattered? My husband 
and I are avid stf fans. Read 
Amazing, Fantastic, Other Worlds, 
Imagination, and Galaxy. 

Imagine my surprise to see a new 
mag on the newsstand yesterday. 
Further surprise — edited by you — 
and all my favorite authors except 
two, Bradbury and Heinlein . . . 



OUR THANKS to Kenneth 
Deuel, Robert Katson, Richard 
Hadden, Horace Christopher, and 
the many, many others who took 
the trouble to write us. Their let- 
ters are no less appreciated than 
those published. But there just isn't 
room for more in this issue. 

ABOUT OUR manuscript con- 
test: the judges had a tough time 
and frankly I'm glad I wasn't one 
of them. They have awarded the 
original manuscript of Phillips' 
The Old Martians to Terry Carr 
of 134 Cambridge Street, San 
Francisco, California. 

Of Stegner's Folly by Shaver 
goes to Lewis Merkelsan of 10135 
Hillhaven Avenue, Tujunga, Cal. 

Sturgeon's Never Underestimate 
was won by Thomas Reamy of 
Route 8, Box 183-E, Ft. Worth, 
Texas. 

I know the judges worked hard, 
because I spent a little time watch- 
ing them work, and I know their 
efforts were sincere and conscien- 
tious. To those who didn't win, 
thanks for your letters. I wish we 
could award a manuscript to 
everyone. 

— PWF 




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